Mahan Air Narrowly Avoids Fighter Jet Mid Air – Injuring Passengers

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A Mahan Air Airbus A310-300 heading from Tehran (Iran) to Beirut (Lebanon) was forced to perform an abrupt maneuver to avoid two fighter jets. Information from The Aviation Herald indicates that the aircraft had to climb at least 600 feet rapidly, while video from within the cabin shows the chaos and fear experienced by passengers.

Mahan Air flies the older Airbus A310 primarily due to longstanding sanctions against the country of Iran. Photo: Lasse Fuss via Wikimedia Commons 

Details of the A310 incident

The Aviation Herald indicates that the incident happened aboard Mahan Air flight W51152 – performed by an Airbus A310. The aircraft is registered as EP-MNF and was heading from Tehran Imam Khomeini (Iran) to Beirut (Lebanon).

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While flying west at FL340, evasive maneuvers had to be taken 160nm east of Beirut over Syrian Airspace. This area was reportedly near the triangle of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq – a point where all three countries’ borders meet.

W51152 flight
The incident occurred near the Syria-Jordan-Iraq triangle. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

According to the Iranian TV report via the New York Times, the fighter jets came within a distance of 100 meters (328 feet) of the Airbus A310. The same report indicates that the crew abruptly took the aircraft to a lower altitude to avoid a collision with the jets.

Reporting from the Aviation Herald conflicts with the claim that altitude was lowered. Instead, it indicates that the aircraft abruptly climbed at least 600 feet and then dropped back down within the span of two minutes. This is backed up by data from FlightRadar24.com.

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Medical assistance needed

Following the sharp climb, the A310 returned to FL340 and requested medical assistance upon arrival in Beirut. Data from FlightRadar24.com indicate the aircraft achieved a safe landing at 19:50 local time.

Upon landing, several passengers needed medical assistance. Video taken by a passenger onboard and posted to Twitter show the many in the cabin screaming and panicking:

 

Where was the fighter jet from?

Sources initially indicated that these jets were either American or Israeli. However, a US official later confirmed that an American fighter jet had passed by the Iranian aircraft – but at a safe distance.

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According to The Times of Israel, US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, says that a US F-15 fighter jet “conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the airliner this evening.” Captain Urban goes on to say:

“The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at al-Tanf garrison…Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft.”

F15
The United States confirmed that an F-15 performed a visual inspection of the Airbus A310, but at a safe distance. Photo: US Air Force

The reaction by Iranian officials

According to Turkish media outlet Andalou Agency, Iranian activist and researcher Hamidreza Gholamzadeh calls the fighter jet maneuver “an unacceptable violation of law, sovereignty of Syria and humanity.” 

Sources within the Iranian government said Iran would “respond strongly” to the “provocation.”

What’s your reaction to this incident? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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