Update On The Ukrainian Plane Incident Near Tehran

10 January 2020 — Moon of Alabama

[As always, Moon of Alabama’s preliminary analysis of flight PS 752 that crashed after takeoff from Tehran’s airport, reveals the vast gulf between so-called mainstream media coverage of events and the reality. WB]

Reuters asks: “Who Ya Gonna Believe Me Or Your Lying Eyes?”

The trustworthy (not) news agency tweeted this yesterday:

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The crashed South African plane is pretty obviously a total loss but Reuters says that there is “no sign of major damage”.

Reuters is a British agency and Brits do have a special kind of humor: “Tis but a scratch” and “Just a flesh wound” says the black knight (vid).

The Reuters tweet was not a mistake. The story on Reuters’ website (screenshot) carries the same picture and headline.

The capture under the picture says:

Congolese aviation workers stand next to the wreckage of C-130 Hercules South African military plane that crash-landed at the Goma airport in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo January 9, 2020 REUTERS/Djaffer Al Katanty

The text of the article says:

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – A South African military plane crash-landed on Thursday at the Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. spokesman said.

Videos on social media showed smoke rising from the airplane but two sources at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there did not appear to be major damage to the plane.

Reporting by Fiston Mahamba and Hereward Holland; Writing by Aaron Ross; editing by John Stonestreet

At least five Reuters people contributed to the story. The claim by the two sources it cites is obviously false. It still made it into the story and even into the headline. Twenty four hours later, even after it was mocked on Twitter, the story is still up.

Consider the above when you read reports in which anonymous officials allege that Iran shot down the Ukrainian flight PS 752 over Tehran.

That may have happened. But that is only one possible explanation for the accident. The crash may have been caused by technical or other issues. Rumors and assertion from anonymous official are not evidence. Neither are videos of unknown provenance. The U.S. is waging an economic war on Iran and it has the will and the ways and means to fabricate such allegations. We will only know for sure what happened when the real evidence has been investigated by the designated authorities.

Some of the comments to yesterday’s piece on the accident disagreed with my warning that the purported evidence of a shoot down is yet insufficient and that other causes are very well possible. They should consider the warning from the top of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO):

ICAO is in contact with the States involved and will assist them if called upon.

Its leadership is stressing the importance of avoiding speculation into the cause of the tragedy pending the outcomes of the investigation

in accordance with Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).

The warning was repeated yesterday:

ICAO continues to call for diminished speculation on the possible causes of the accident

until the Annex 13 investigation is permitted to be concluded and its official results are confirmed.

Meanwhile the bodies have been removed from the crash site and the debris has been been collected and sorted by type.

This morning the head of the Iranian Civil Aviation Administration gave a press conference (vid) based on what the officials currently know. My impression is that he is a serious and reasonable person. The Aljazeerah English live translation was not good. None of the questions were translated but some of official’s points were understandable:

  • As far as it is known the plane was not hit by a missile.
  • Judgment must be held back until all the technical information is available.
  • After the take off the pilot contacted the airport control tower for permission to climb to 26,000 feet. The permission was given.
  • Two minutes later a fire broke out on the plane.
  • There was no communication after that but the pilots may have been too busy. The cockpit voice recorder will give more answers.
  • Twelve groups have been formed to investigate the accident and the accident site.
  • U.S. officials have asserted to have documents or other evidence that shows a missile incident. If they have such they are required to step forward and present it to the investigation.
  • Video shows that the burning aircraft flew for 60-70 seconds. If the aircraft had been hit by a missile it would have dropped immediately and there would be a very large debris field like it happened with flight MH17 in Ukraine.
  • All countries affected by the accident can name a liaison person or take part in the investigation.

Then followed an explanation for the delayed departure of the plane:

  • The plane arrived the night before the flight.
  • Both pilots went to the hotel for rest but only for three hours.
  • The passengers were mostly holiday guests who carried a lot of luggage.
  • The boarding process took a long time.
  • The weather condition at that time were also not suitable.
  • The pilot requested extra fuel.
  • The number of passengers, the luggage and the extra fuel added up to more than the plane can carry.
  • The pilot ordered to off-load some luggage.
  • All this was a normal process that can happen on any flight.

It is then said that the investigation may extend a long time, even longer than the usual one year. Depending on their condition the extraction of data from the blackboxes may also take a month or two. The press conference ends with a request for calm and for support of the investigation.

Footage of the unopened blackboxes was aired on Iran TV. They seem to have minor outer damage but I am confident that the permanent memory within them is intact.

Investigators and observers from several countries and from Boeing have joined their Iranian colleagues and will help to find the causes of the accident.

Ukrainian investigators have arrived and have been at the crash site. There are laments (ukr) from anonymous Ukrainian officials that the Iranians “bulldozed” the debris:

“Debris is being raked by bulldozers; is Iran interested in a quality investigation?” – source in the interdepartmental commission of Ukraine.

The Iranians used a wheeled front loader to help collect the heavy parts of the debris. That is hardly bulldozing.

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There are also laments that the collection process is too fast and may damage some parts. Well, the plane crashed and there was a large fuel explosion. There will hardly be any undamaged parts.

The crash site of the Ethiopian MAX that came down last years was also cleaned within three days. Sorting the parts into big heaps (structure, engines, electronics) before driving them off for storage and analysis is unlikely to cause additional damage. Meanwhile in the Ukraine one can still find parts of flight MH17 at very the place where that plane came down.

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