UIA President: Flight PS752 Was At The Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) president Yevhenii Dykhne said airlines from all over the world were sending their aircraft to and from Tehran airport on Jan. 8, when a UIA-operated Boeing 737 was shot down by missiles.
“Unfortunately, our flight was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Any other aircraft could be at its place, right now in Tehran,” Dykhne said in a press conference Jan. 11 in Kiev.
On Jan. 11, Iran admitted accidentally shooting down flight PS752, backtracking on previous denials that it was responsible for the Jan. 8 crash, which killed all 176 people on board.
Before PS752 took off from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport that day, there was a Qatar Airways aircraft airborne with a further three Iranian air companies taking off after flight PS752.
“The airport was fully operational and there was no suspension from Iran aviation authorities, no warnings,” he said.
UIA operated 5X-weekly services from Kiev to Tehran. PS752 on Jan. 8 used the same flight pattern as all other previous UIA flights.
“The crew followed instructions from the air traffic control center in Tehran. It was a routine flight. Communication between cockpit and the airport continued until the very end,” Dykhne said.
He said that when Iran announced it was responsible for the crash, he knew this was coming. “This was a relief to know and rules out any speculations that our company did something wrong. Our priority has always been the safety of our passengers. From day one, we were absolutely sure that we made no mistakes and there was no technical failure in operation of the aircraft. We found out there was some other reason behind this accident,” Dykhne said.
Flight PS752 was UIA’s first fatal crash since the airline launched operations 27 years ago.
Dykhne responded to criticism from the Ukrainian public who questioned why UIA was flying to Iran at a time of heightened military tension in the area. “For us, we are a civil aviation company. From the moment our aircraft left Kiev, we had no information about upcoming threats. This is the same as when the aircraft took off from Tehran. We had no alarming threat, no single aviation agency issued any warning. It is up to the country’s authorities whether to close the airspace or not.”
“They [Iran] should take full responsibility for what happened with our people. If Iran is firing missiles, then they have to close an airport,” he said.
Dykhne said it is too early to say how much UIA will be impacted by this accident. “The burden of Jan. 8 will be on our shoulders forever. We cannot change the past,” Dykhne added.
“We hope to receive results from the investigation by Feb. 8,” he said.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported Jan. 12 that EASA said European airlines should avoid Iranian airspace until further notice, expanding an earlier regulator recommendation that national authorities bar airlines from overflying Iran below 25,000 ft. It was issued “in light of the statement from Iran that its armed forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger aircraft,” EASA said.