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Air Ukraine Not to Blame

The crash of the Air Ukraine flight after departing Tehran has raised the spectre of airliners being targeted, and it has happened before. Writing for Forbes, Will Horton reports that Air Ukraine has been vindicated.

Above: Air Ukraine Boeing 737-800 seen at Frankfurt - tjdarmstadt Wikimedia Commons

International norms for airlines and governmental bodies call for public communications after a plane crash to be quick, accurate and fact-based. It should avoid inferences, speculation and any hint of blame.

So it was of some surprise when Ukraine International Airlines diverged from this protocol when speaking on the same day as the crash of flight PS752 from Tehran to Kiev that killed all 176 onboard. The airline started routinely by identifying the aircraft, pilots and the flight hours they had accumulated – all factual. But then there was inference: “Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance,” Ukraine Airlines VP Operations Ihor Sosnovsky said in a statement.

The minimal error probability stood out on its own, let alone the follow-up that crew error had so quickly been ruled out by the airline and not the safety authorities tasked with identifying cause.

This outspoken airline commentary, followed by Kiev and then foreign governments, would prove influential – perhaps necessary – for the cause of PS752’s crash to be acknowledged by the Iranian government, which initially denied any fault.

While foreign governments were concluding a missile was likely responsible, Ukraine Airlines continued to refute Iran’s theories, ranging from abstract technical problems or pilot handling to specific mentions of engine failure. It did not help Ukraine’s embassy in Iran also initially said the flight had technical problems, comments it quickly retracted as unofficial.