Authorities found the “black boxes” of a Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed into Iranian farmland Wednesday, minutes after taking off from the main airport in Iran’s capital, Tehran.
Iran didn’t say whether it would release the boxes or the flight data from them. Without it, crash inspectors said, it would be harder to pinpoint why the jet went down.
The Boeing 737-800 crashed hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers. The plane carried 167 passengers and nine crew members from different nations. There were no survivors.
Ukrainian and Iranian officials gave no indication the plane crash and the missile attack are related.
Iranian authorities pointed to the possibility of engine failure, but some aviation observers were skeptical.
“There was no way for Iran to know it was engine failure,” said Mary Schiavo, a former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general and a pilot. She said photos of the wreckage she’s examined show no evidence of engine problems.
“That is the wreckage of an explosion in the air,” she said. “Something happened to blow that plane out of the air. Statistically speaking, that’s a missile or a bomb.”
In most major airline crashes around the world, U.S. officials participate in the investigation. Given the missile attack, it was unclear whether U.S. officials would be allowed to follow the standard procedures. In the USA, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a statement that it was “monitoring developments” and working with the State Department.
A former NTSB chairman, Jim Hall, said, “My major concern right now is making sure there’s an independent investigation.”
In a preliminary crash report issued Thursday, Iran’s civil aviation authority said the plane’s crew never made a radio call for help and were trying to turn back to the airport when the plane went down.
Ukrainian authorities offered to help with the investigation and prepared a group of specialists to assist with search operations, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk.