Investigators continue to scour the site of Wednesday’s crash of a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 two minutes after takeoff from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing all 176 people on board. The airplane, MSN 38124, registration UR-PSR, crashed at 2:44 UTC while en route to Kiev’s Boryspil International Airport.
The three-year-old Boeing narrowbody managed to attain a maximum altitude of 2,400 meters (about 8,000 ft) before a fire broke out. An amateur video of the aircraft taken by a witness depicts a huge fireball in the dark above the ground, suggesting the airplane had caught fire before impact.
People from seven nations were on board, including 147 Iranians and citizens of Canada, Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany, and the UK. Even though the airplane belonged to Ukraine’s flag carrier, only two Ukrainian passengers appeared on the flight manifest, along with nine crew members.
Local authorities report they have found the airplane’s flight recorders, and that early indications suggest that a fire broke out in one of the twinjet’s CFM56 engines.
While the crash almost coincided with the launch of a dozen missiles at U.S. military forces in Iraq by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, no evidence yet exists of a connection between the events.
Nevertheless, aviation information service OpsGroup has advised operators to assume that the airplane was shot down until further notice. Images posted on the OpsGroup web site show apparent projectile holes in the fuselage and a wing section. Whether that projectile was an engine part or a missile fragment remains the subject of conjecture but operators should err “on the side of caution,” it said.
Meanwhile, OpsGroup warned of a wider regional risk as indicated through U.S. FAA Notams issued late Tuesday night ordering U.S. operators not to fly over Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman.