United States Officials believe that the Ukrainian Boeing 737 that crashed yesterday after departing Tehran was shot down. According to the BBC, multiple US sources have reported that a missile attack is thought to have taken place.
Yesterday, the world tragically witnessed the first major plane crash of 2020. A Boeing 737 owned and operated by Ukraine International Airlines came down shortly after departing from Tehran. Unfortunately, there were no survivors as the aircraft was totally destroyed during the incident. Now, the United States reportedly believe the aircraft was shot down. Meanwhile, Sky News is reporting that the United Kingdom government is looking into these reports.
According to Reuters, US officials strongly believe that the aircraft was accidentally brought down by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles. The publication reports that two heat signatures were detected on satellite imagery around two minutes after departure. These could have been surface to air missiles.
It is then reported that, according to a US official, the heat signature of an explosion was detected. This was followed by an observation that the aircraft was on fire as it plummeted to the ground. The Pentagon declined to comment to Reuters, however, the publication further states that the downing of the aircraft was likely accidental and unintentional.
The incident came hours after an Iranian attack on US interests in Iraq. As early as yesterday morning, some were suspecting a missile attack. However, thus far Iran has claimed that the aircraft crashed as a result of a mechanical incident.
Yesterday the United States Federal Aviation Administration issued a NOTAM prohibiting US pilots from flying in the area. This was put down to “heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the middle east, which present an inadvertent risk to u.s. civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or misidentification.”
Additionally, many carriers have been avoiding overflying Iran and Iraq since the incident unfurled. One example was British Airways who was yesterday diverting aircraft around the area, or to alternate destinations. A couple of its flights were even close to entering Iraqi airspace when they turned away.
Avoiding the area has continued through today. Flights from London to Dubai usually pass right through the affected area, however, one of British Airways’ flights on the route instead tracked south through Italy, and cut across the Saudi Arabian desert.
A British Airways spokesperson yesterday told Simple Flying:
We are in constant contact with our partners around the world to assess the security of our routes, and will always take action where appropriate. We would never operate a flight unless it was safe to do so.