The Canadian Transportation Safety Board has publicly addressed some shortcomings that affect the accident report regarding flight PS752 on 8 January 2020. On that day a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft scheduled to fly from Tehran, Iran to Kiev, Ukraine was shot down by a ground-to-air missile shortly after take-off from Kohmeini International Airport.

All 176 passengers and crew members died, and 138 of them were either Canadian citizens, permanent residents or with ties to Canadian citizens, therefore Canadian authorities have been paying particular attention to the investigation carried out by Iran’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board.

Military interference with civil aviation operations

“The … aircraft was misidentified by the air defence unit in the suburbs of Tehran and, consequently, two missiles were launched toward it,” the report reads. “The operation of the aircraft had not imposed any error to the air defence unit.

“The interference of military activity with civil aviation operations resulted in an accident.”

An incorrect read on the plane’s flight direction due to “human error” caused an operator to perceive the aircraft as flying northeast toward Tehran at a low altitude, rather than flying west away from the main airport, which it was. The operator tried to alert the command centre to the apparent threat, “but the message was never relayed,” the report states.

“Without receiving a go-ahead or response from the command centre, he came to identify the target as a hostile one and fired missile (sic) at the aircraft against the procedure planned.”

“The report says what happened but not why”

However, Ms Kathy Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board of Cansada has stated that while the report seems to identify the cause for the crash and provides a plausible explanation of what happened, it provides no “detailed explanation or evidence regarding the underlying factors that led the air defence unit to launch two surface-to-air-missiles at the plane”, CBC news reports.

Also Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra largely dismissed the 145-page document, which was posted to the website of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.

“The report makes no attempt to answer critical questions about what truly happened. It appears incomplete and has no hard facts or evidence,” the ministers said in a statement Wednesday.

“We remain deeply concerned about the lack of convincing information and evidence.”

Iran had initially denied any responsibility for the crash, but after three days it was forced to admit that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had fired to missiles to the Boeing 737 after mistakenly identifying it as a hostile target. This occurred only hours after Iran had launched missiles into Iraq at two American military bases as a retaliation for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani by the U.S. Army.

Ralph Goodale, the former Liberal public safety minister who was named Canada’s special adviser on the response to the crash, used very strong words to describe the report, calling it “shambolic” and “insulting” to loved ones. “They also failed to alert their own air-defence missile operators about the identities of those innocent aircraft that were taking off. It’s just a litany of failure that sounds very much like wanton disregard for human life,” Goodale said in an interview reported by press agency The Canadian Press.

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Vanni Gibertini
Assistant Editor - Vanni fell in love with commercial aviation during his undergraduate studies in Statistics at the University of Bologna, when he prepared his thesis on the effects of deregulation on the U.S. and European aviation markets. Then he pursued his passion further by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University in the U.K. followed by holding several management positions at various start-up carriers in Europe (Jet2, SkyEurope, Silverjet). After moving to Canada, he was Business Development Manager for IATA for nine years before turning to his other passion: sports writing.


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