ICAO has called on Iran to expedite the investigation into the January 8 shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 soon after departure from Tehran. In a statement issued late on Friday, the UN Council expressed support for a report by ICAO Council president Salvatore Sciacchitano urging Iranian officials not to delay its investigation into the incident in which the country’s air defense forces destroyed the Boeing 737 airliner with surface-to-air missiles.
An initial report issued by the Civil Aviation Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran on July 11 confirmed that two missiles destroyed the aircraft just over two hours after military officials instructed civilian air traffic controllers that airline departures would require clearance from military authorities. All 176 people on board flight PS752 died when the aircraft was shot down five minutes after takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport even though the Air Defense Coordination Center cleared the flight.
According to the report, a failure to take account of the recent relocation of an air defense unit near the Iranian capital triggered a sequence of errors resulting in a 107-degree discrepancy in how military radar tracked the aircraft. The report concluded this resulted in military personnel mistaking the departing airliner for what they assumed to be a hostile military aircraft or missile. The incident happened at a time of heightened tension, five days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani soon after he arrived in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
Canadian transport minister Marc Garneau endorsed ICAO’s call for Iran to publish a full account of the accident, including a full readout from PS752’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders. Iranian officials have blocked the Canadian government’s efforts to actively engage in the investigation process. Canada lost 55 of its citizens, as well as 30 permanent residents in the accident.
“We have had several exchanges with the Iranian CAA in which we urged its authorities to expedite the accident investigation in accordance with ICAO Annex 13 provisions,” said Sciacchitano in his statement to the ICAO Council. Annex 13 proposes that final reports into aviation accidents should be published within 12 months.
“It should also be recalled that a team composed of ICAO Secretariat experts was established immediately following the accident in order to support the investigation, and that the Council had earlier endorsed the ‘Safer Skies’ initiative following the downing of flight PS752 and aimed at enhancing safety over hazardous or conflict zones,” Sciacchitano added.
The Canadian government also invited ICAO Council members to participate in the ‘Safer Skies Forum’ that it will host on December 8 and 9. Sciacchitano is due to make a keynote address at the event, which will focus on ensuring safe air transport operations in conflict zones.
As of November 7, neither the Iranian government nor Ukrainian International Airlines had issued any response to the ICAO Council statement.