The black boxes of a Ukrainian airliner mistakenly downed in Tehran have revealed the pilots were still alive after the first of two missiles hit the plane, Iranian officials said Sunday.
Flight 752, a Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet, crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s main airport on January 8.
Iran was late to admit that it had accidentally shot down the plane
Iran admitted days later that its forces accidentally shot down the Kiev-bound Boeing 737-800 aircraft, killing all 176 people on board.
Tehran’s air defenses had been on high alert at the time in case the US retaliated against Iranian strikes hours earlier on American troops stationed in Iraq.
The head of Iran’s civil aviation authority on Sunday revealed for the first time what was on the black boxes, which had been sent to France for analysis.
Data from the Boeing 737 indicated that the pilots and passengers were alive before a second missile hit 25 seconds later, Iran’s aviation authority said.
The Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) flight crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran.
All 176 people on board were killed.
The plane was a Boeing 737-800 – one of the international airline industry’s most widely used aircraft models.
Before leaving the airport’s air space, the plane appeared to turn around to return to the runway. Shortly afterwards, it crashed.
After initially denying any responsibility for the incident, Iran admitted it had shot down the UIA flight “unintentionally”, calling it a “disastrous mistake” by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Iran’s air defences had been on high alert at the time. Hours earlier, the country had fired ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike in Baghdad.
During a press conference on Sunday, Capt Zanganeh, head of the Civil Aviation Organisation of Iran (CAOI), said “up to 19 seconds” of conversation between two pilots and a pilot instructor had been captured in the aircraft’s cabin after the first missile struck.
Second missile hit the plane 25 seconds later
It was “25 seconds later that the second missile hit the plane”, he said, adding: “They were piloting the plane until the last moment.”
He said information recorded by the plane’s black boxes – which hold key data and communications from the cockpit – indicated that the aircraft had been “in a normal flight corridor” before the first missile exploded, sending shrapnel into the aircraft.
Capt Zanganeh added: “At this moment, the plane has an electrical problem and the auxiliary power of the plane is turned on at the order of the pilot instructor. Both engines were on in the seconds after the explosion.
“No sound was heard from the passenger cabin at that moment… The recording stopped after 19 seconds.”
No details of the cockpit conversation were disclosed.
Touraj Dehghani Zanganeh said that the cockpit voice recorder registered a conversation between the pilot, co-pilot and an instructor between the two blasts.
“Nineteen seconds after the first missile hit the plane, the voices of pilots inside the cockpit indicated that the passengers were alive … 25 seconds later the second missile hit the plane.”https://t.co/yQYtsh2yMF
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“Up to 19 seconds after the first missile exploded in the vicinity of the aircraft, (they) noticed abnormal conditions and were in control of the aircraft until the last moment,” he said, quoted by state television’s website.
“The instructor indicates that the aircraft has an electronic problem and the auxiliary power has been activated,” he said.
“The pilots were notified that both engines of the aircraft were on.”
The black boxes stopped working 19 seconds after the first explosion, making it impossible to retrieve data on the impact of the second missile, he said.
Analysis of the “effect of the second missile cannot be obtained from the black boxes,” said Zanganeh.
Iran, which has no means of decoding the black boxes, sent them to France for analysis in mid-July, nearly six months after the disaster.
A source close to the investigations said the Iranian statement contained no surprises, adding that the black boxes could never have revealed who had shot the missiles or whether the strike was deliberate.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk