No Technical Problem, No Flight Path Deviation.
International norm calls for communication 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 that 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.
Iran did not absolve Ukraine Airlines of blame even when it first acknowledged it had unintentionally fired at flight PS752. Iran’s admission came with the caveat it fired the missiles because the flight turned towards a “sensitive military center” and “took the flying posture and altitude of an enemy target.” This proviso was carried in the first paragraph of major reports despite lacking of evidence.