Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) was a scheduled international passenger flight from Tehran to Kiev operated by Ukraine International Airlines, or UIA. On 8 January 2020, the Boeing 737-800 operating the route was shot down by the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran shortly after takeoff from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport. All 176 passengers and crew were killed, making it the deadliest aviation disaster to occur on Iran’s soil in more than a decade. The incident was the first fatal aviation incident for Ukraine International Airlines since the start of its operation in 1992.
Initially, Iranian authorities had denied that they had shot down the plane, stating that allegations of missile hit were “psychological warfare” and there was a technical error with the plane. Ukrainian authorities initially supported the Iranian statements; however, they later retracted their support and said a shootdown of the flight was one of the “main working theories”.
American, Canadian and British officials stated that they believed the aircraft was shot down by a Tor M1 surface-to-air missile launched by Iran. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s own intelligence, as well as evidence provided by U.S. intelligence agencies, suggested the aircraft was shot down. On 11 January 2020, the Iranian military admitted in a statement that they had “unintentionally” shot down the plane because of human error.
The incident came during a period of increased tensions between the United States and Iran, following an airstrike that killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani and a series of retaliatory ballistic missile attacks by Iran on U.S. forces in Iraq. It was preceded by an order from the U.S. that all American civilian aircraft avoid Iranian airspace and was followed by several other nations and airlines ordering their aircraft to avoid Iran’s airspace.
The flight was operated by Ukraine International Airlines, the flag carrier and the largest airline of Ukraine, on a scheduled flight from the Iranian capital Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport to Boryspil International Airport in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Emergency officials confirmed that the aircraft was carrying 176 people on board, including nine crew members. Fifteen of the passengers were children.
Flight 752 was scheduled to take off at 05:15 local time (UTC+3:30), but was delayed. It departed Stand 116 and took off from Runway 29R at 06:12:47 local time and was expected to land in Kiev at 08:00 local time (UTC+2:00). The final ADS-B data received was at 06:14:45, less than three minutes after departure.
Between 06:14:20 and 06:14:45 the plane turned right 24º (from the take-off heading of 289º to 313º), according to flight data.
According to the data, the last recorded altitude was at 2,416 metres (7,925 ft) above mean sea level with a groundspeed of 275 knots (509 km/h). The airport itself was 1,007 metres (3,305 ft) above mean sea level, which would give an altitude of 1,410 metres (4,620 ft) above ground level. The flight was climbing at just under 3,000ft/minute when the altitude record abruptly ended over open ground near the Northern end of Enqelab Eslami Boulevard, Parand.
The aircraft crashed into terrain located 15 kilometres (9.3 mi; 8.1 nmi) north of the airport. The crash occurred about five hours after Iran launched retaliatory missile strikes on U.S. positions in Iraq for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
Shortly after the crash, emergency responders arrived with 22 ambulances, four bus ambulances, and a helicopter, but heavy fires prevented a rescue attempt. The wreckage was strewn over a wide area, with no survivors found at the crash site centred around the Khalaj Abad area. The aircraft was completely destroyed on impact.
Passengers and Crew
According to the Iran Civil Aviation Organization spokesperson, there were 167 passengers and 9 crew members. Iranian state media had initially reported the aircraft was carrying 181 people. The ISNA stated that most of the passengers were Iranians. Officials confirmed that “at least” 130 people on board were Iranian, most of them returning to Canada via Ukraine. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that 138 of the 167 passengers were travelling to Canada. Many of the Iranian Canadians were affiliated with Canadian universities, as students or researchers who had travelled to Iran during Christmas break. The crash was the largest loss of Canadian lives in aviation since the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182.
According to Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko and flight manifest released by UIA, out of the 167 passengers’ citizenship, 82 were confirmed to be Iranian, 63 were Canadian, three were British, four were Afghans, 10 were Swedish and three were Germans. Eleven Ukrainians were also onboard. However, the Canadian government later revised the number of Canadians to 57. The German Foreign Ministry denied any Germans were aboard. The three individuals in question were Afghan nationals who lived in Germany as asylum seekers.