Ukrainian Airlines boss: plane that crashed in Iran was in 'good condition'

8 January 2020, 10:27 | Updated: 8 January 2020, 10:54

Investigators examine the wreckage of the downed plane
Investigators examine the wreckage of the downed plane. Picture: PA

The boss of Ukrainian Airlines has said there was no mechanical reason why one of the company's planes would have crashed shortly after take-off in Iran, killing 176 people including three Brits.

President of Ukranian Airlines Yevgeny Dykhne said today: "The aircraft was in good condition... We guarantee the serviceability of our aircraft and the high qualification of our crews".

The plane’s black box was recovered but according to reports Iranian officials were refusing to hand it over to Boeing and it was not clear which authority would be allowed to examine it.

In a statement on its website, the Ukrainian national carrier said its flight from Tehran to Kyiv disappeared from radar just a "few minutes" after taking off from Tehran International Airport.

Social media footage shows the plane came down in a fireball crash shortly after take-off from Tehran's airport, hours after Iran launched rocket strikes on US troops in the country.

The company said its staff were "clarifying the exact number" of passengers on board the flight, which took off 6.10am local time (2.40am UK) on Wednesday.

The statement said: "According to preliminary data, there were 167 passengers and nine crew members on board. UIA representatives are currently clarifying the exact number of passengers on board.

"Passenger lists will be posted on the airline's website after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.

"The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the air crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives of the victims."

The UIA statement added all flights to Tehran were suspended with immediate effect until further notice and added it was investigating the cause of the crash.

It said: "As at 9.30am (local time), UIA in close cooperation with the aviation authorities, takes all measures to determine the causes of the air accident. In parallel, the airline will be contacting the relatives of the passengers, providing all possible assistance in the current situation.

"The flight was operated on a Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft (registration UR-PSR).

"The aircraft was built in 2016 and delivered directly to the airline from the manufacturer. The last scheduled maintenance of the aircraft took place on 06 January, 2020.

"Investigation will be conducted with the involvement of the aviation authorities of Ukraine, Iran, representatives of the Boeing manufacturer, the airline, and the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine.

"The airline will inform about the progress of the investigation and the causes of the tragic event as soon as they are identified."

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The air crash site just outside Tehran
The air crash site just outside Tehran. Picture: PA

It comes as flights were being diverted across the region and the Foreign Office issued warnings for British people planning to travel in the Middle East.

This morning, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted: "Terrible news from the Middle East. This morning, after departing from Tehran International Airport, a UIA passenger plane crashed near the airport.

"According to preliminary reports, all 167 passengers and crew of nine members died. Sincere condolences to family and friends."

Mr Zelenskyy, in a statement on the president's website, said he had ordered the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to open criminal proceedings over the UIA plane crash in Tehran.

He said: "An investigation commission should be set up of representatives of the civil and aviation agencies responsible for civil aviation. We have to work out all the possible versions.

"Regardless of the conclusions regarding the causes of the Iranian catastrophe, the airworthiness of the entire civilian fleet will be tested.

"I keep all measures on personal control. I very much ask everyone to refrain from speculation and putting forward untested versions of the disaster before the official announcements."