On the morning of Jan. 8, a Boeing 737-800 jetliner operated by Ukrainian International Airlines crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran. All 176 people on board were killed.
Since the crash occurred shortly after hostilities with Iran had resulted in the launching of missiles at U.S. positions in Iraq, some observers wondered if the plane had been shot down.
A spokesperson for the Iranian armed forces denied that the plane had been struck down and said that any such claims could be psychological warfare by the opponents of Iran. And, a lawmaker in Washington, D.C., on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that there was no evidence the plane crash was anything but accidental.
Ukrainian officials reported at first that the plane, which is about 3-1/2 years old, had been brought down by mechanical issues, but they have since backed away from that statement. They are now awaiting the end of the investigation before making a statement as to cause.
That said, one Iranian official reported shortly after the crash that the plane appeared to catch fire in the air, causing the pilot to lose control of the plane.
Is this plane the same as the Boeing 737 Max?
No. Although the jets are related, the Boeing 737 Max and the Boeing 737-800 are not the same. The 737 Max remains grounded worldwide. However, the crash is likely to continue to batter Boeing’s reputation.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been eight fatal crashes recorded involving the 737-800, including a crash in 2010 that killed more than 150 people.
Moreover, 737-800s around the world have been subjected to inspections and repairs recently, after several airlines reported cracks in a part designed to keep the wings attached to the fuselage, according to the Associated Press.
An international investigation
Iranian authorities have announced that they have found the “black boxes” from the plane, which record instrument data and cockpit conversations. Ordinarily, the next step would be for investigators from the plane’s country of origin – the U.S. – to join into the local investigation. However, according to the Associated Press, it’s unclear whether Iran will welcome investigators from the U.S.
This particular airliner went through its most recent scheduled maintenance just days ago. It reportedly suffered some sort of technical issue shortly after takeoff. Communication with the pilot was then interrupted and the jetliner suddenly disappeared from radar at 8,000 feet, according to Reuters.
So far, it is unclear whether a maintenance issue, a fault in the aircraft, human error or a combination of factors was responsible for the crash.
UPDATE: Shortly after this blog post was published, the government of Iran admitted it had shot down the plane. It apparently mistook the jetliner for a hostile aircraft.