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Black box data from shot down Ukranian plane to be examined

written by Hannah Dowling | July 21, 2020
Commemoration of the victims of UIA Flight 752, held at Kiev International Airport (Wikimedia Commons)

Data recovered from Ukranian International Airlines Flight 752, which was shot down by Iran in January, is now due to begin being analysed by French investigators.

French aviation investigation bureau BEA announced on Monday that it would begin examining black box data from the shot down plane, and analysing recovered voice and flight data from Tuesday. 

The BEA stated that both CVR and FDR data, which consists of both the cockpit sound recorder and the recorder of flight data, had been “successfully downloaded”, and stated that analysis is to follow.

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The French agency was granted permission to be involved in the investigations due to its hand in creating the aircraft’s engines. 

The investigation organisation noted that further information released in regard to the data will be done so via Iranian authorities, who are leading the investigation.

Investigations are also to be observed by authorities from Canada, Sweden, Britain and representatives from UIA, Boeing and Safran.

Iran only agreed to hand over the recorders to the BEA for analysis in June, after facing pressure from authorities in Canada, Ukraine and France to do so.

What we know so far

Ukranian International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) was shot down by two IRGC Tor M-1 missiles shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Iran’s capital city.

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The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, was shot down from the sky just hours after Iran also fired missiles at US bases in Iraq.

The attack on bases known to house US forces was done in retaliation for US President Donald Trump ordering a drone strike against senior Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

While Iran initially wiped its hands of the incident, early investigations by Western intelligence agencies and civilians found that the plane was impacted by surface-to-air missiles launched from within Iran. 

Canadian officials wary of Iranian investigation

Whilst initially reluctant to do so, Iranian authorities have now admitted that they shot down the Ukranian plane on 8 January after mistaking it for a missile, in the midst of growing tensions between Iran and the United States.

All 176 passengers and crew on board the plane were killed in the incident, which included 57 Canadians. Canadian officials have come forward to express doubt over interim reports into the incident which have been released by Iran.

Canadian Foreign Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, raised concerns over interim reports released by Iran’s civil aviation authorities, which claim that a misalignment in a radar system, combined with poor communication between the air defence operator and his commanders, were responsible for the downing of the plane.

“I don’t put much credibility into that report. It’s not just the result of human error – I think that would be an oversimplification of what really happened,” Champagne told Reuters on Monday.

“We need to understand who the responsible people are, who gave that order, how could the airspace still be open, how were these missiles fired?”

Meanwhile, Kathy Fox, chair of Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB), called the data extraction “a big step forward,” however questioned the global rules that govern aircraft accident investigations.

Current rules state that the authorities within the country in which a crash or accident takes place are responsible for investigations. 

Fox argued that these rules “need to be reviewed and revised”, insinuating that it might not always be appropriate or helpful for a country to investigate the decisions of its own military.

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