Today marks 34 years since the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 on July 3, 1988. The incident involved a scheduled service to Dubai, which was operated by an Airbus A300 with nearly 300 passengers and crew members crew on board. Let’s take a closer look at how the shooting unfolded, the reasons for which remain disputed today.
The flight and the aircraft in question
Iran Air Flight 655 was a scheduled international service that departed from Mehrabad International Airport (THR) in Tehran. At the time, it was the Iranian capital’s main airport, but has since assumed a largely domestic role following the opening of Imam Khomeini International (IKA) in the mid-2000s. The flight destination was the main Middle East hub of Dubai International (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates.
The service also had a scheduled stopover en route, at Iran’s Bandar Abbas International Airport (BND). The first leg of the flight was uneventful and he arrived there around 8:40 a.m. local time, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
By the time Flight 655 left Bandar Abbas at 10:17 a.m., it had a total of 290 people on board. This figure included 274 passengers and 16 crew members. The aircraft performing the flight was EP-IBU, an Airbus A300 which, according to ATDB.aerohad joined Iran Air as a brand new aircraft in April 1982, a month after its first flight.
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Disaster on the Gulf
As reported, Iran Air Flight 655 departed Bandar Abbas at 10:17 a.m. local time, departing on a heading of 210 degrees towards the airport runway. With the flight expected to last just 28 minutes, air traffic control ordered him to climb to a cruising altitude of just 14,000 feet after departure. It was cleared to fly to Dubai via an air corridor known as the A59, which was around 20 miles (32 km) wide.
However, just seven minutes after departing from Bandar Abbas at 10:24 a.m. local time, the Airbus A300 operating Iran Air Flight 655 was struck by a surface-to-air missile, after crossing 12,000 feet. It was one of two shots at the jet by the USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser operated by the US Navy.
The force of the missile’s impact caused the plane to disintegrate in mid-air, its wreckage falling into the sea below. The incident resulted in the deaths of all 290 people on board, and the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorders were never found. This raised the question of why the United States Navy would shoot down a civilian airliner, a debate that remains contested today.
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The US Navy claimed it launched the attack on Iran Air Flight 655 on the grounds that the A300 had been identified as a hostile F-14 fighter jet. He reportedly fired the missiles only after attempting to contact the aircraft. However, the ship was found to be in Iranian waters at the time of the attack.
Iran argued that, for this reason, the Vincennes were prohibited from firing anything into its airspace that did not follow an attack profile, regardless of the type of aircraft. The country has also refused to accept that the shooting was a case of mistaken identity.
Instead, Iran deemed the attack to be intentional and unlawful, even going so far as to declare the negligence involved a crime. The US government never formally apologized, but paid $61.8 million to the families of the victims.
Source: Aviation Safety Network