List of airliner shootdown incidents
In the history of commercial aviation, there have been many airliner shootdown incidents which have been caused intentionally or by accident. This is a chronologically ordered list meant to document instances where airliners have been brought down by gunfire or missile attacks, including wartime incidents, rather than terrorist bombings or sabotage.
- 1 1930s
- 2 1940s
- 3 1950s
- 4 1970s
- 5 1980s
- 6 1990s
- 7 2000s
- 8 2010s
- 9 Near misses
- 10 See also
- 11 References
Believed to be the first commercial passenger plane destroyed by hostile forces. On August 24, 1938 - during the Second Sino-Japanese War - a DC-2 (the Kweilin), jointly operated by China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) and Pan American, carrying 18 passengers and crew, was forced down by Japanese aircraft just north of Hong Kong in Chinese territory. 15 people were killed when the Kweilin, which made an emergency water landing to avoid the hostile attack, was strafed by the Japanese and sunk in a river. The American pilot Hugh L. Woods and two others survived. Three prominent Chinese bankers, Hu Yun, Singloh Hsu, and Wang Yumei, were among the dead. It was later believed to be an assassination attempt on Chinese President Sun Yat-sen's only son, Sun Fo, who was thought to be aboard the flight but was not.
Junkers Ju 52-3/mge "Kaleva" OH-ALL was a civilian transport and passenger plane operated by the Finnish carrier Aero O/Y, shot down by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3 bombers on June 14, 1940, while en route from Tallinn, Estonia, to Helsinki, Finland. This occurred during the Interim Peace between Finland and the Soviet Union, three months after the end of the Winter War, and a year before the Continuation War began. A few minutes after taking off in Tallinn, Kaleva was intercepted by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3T torpedo bombers. The bombers opened fire with their machine guns and badly damaged Kaleva, causing it to ditch in water a few kilometers northeast of Keri lighthouse. All 7 passengers and 2 crew members on board died.
On October 29, 1940, a DC-2 named the Chungking, operated by CNAC, was destroyed by Japanese fighters at Changyi Airfield, Yunnan, China, as it landed. Nine people were killed including the American pilot Walter "Foxie" Kent and Chinese architect Chang-Kan Chien. The plane caught fire and would never fly again. The plane was formerly the Kweilin which had been shot down in 1938 and had been refurbished.
PK-AFV, also known as Pelikaan, was a Douglas DC-3 (Dakota) airliner operated by KNILM from 1937 to 1942. On March 3, 1942, while on a flight from Bandung, Netherlands East Indies, to Broome, Australia, the plane was attacked by three Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter planes; PK-AFV crash-landed on a beach near Broome. Four passengers died. Among its cargo were diamonds worth at the time an estimated £150,000–300,000 (in 2013 an approximate £6–13 million), and the vast majority of these were lost or stolen following the crash.
BOAC Flight 777
BOAC Flight 777, a scheduled British Overseas Airways Corporation civilian airline flight of a Douglas DC-3 on 1 June 1943 from Lisbon's Portela Airport in neutral Portugal, to Whitchurch near Bristol, England, was attacked by eight German Junkers Ju 88 fighters and crashed into the Bay of Biscay, resulting in the deaths of all aboard including the English actor Leslie Howard.
Cathay Pacific VR-HEU
VR-HEU, a four-engined propeller-driven Douglas DC-4 airliner operated by Cathay Pacific Airways, en route from Bangkok to Hong Kong on July 23, 1954, was shot down by People's Liberation Army Air Force Lavochkin La-7 fighters off the coast of Hainan Island; ten on board died.
El Al Flight 402
El Al Flight 402, a Lockheed L-149 Constellation pressurized four-engine propliner, registered 4X-AKC, was an international passenger flight from Vienna, Austria, to Tel Aviv, Israel, via Istanbul, Turkey, on July 27, 1955. The aircraft strayed into Bulgarian airspace, refused to land, and was shot down by two Bulgarian MiG-15 jet fighters several kilometers away from the Greece border near Petrich, Bulgaria. All seven crew and fifty-one passengers on board the airliner died.
Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114
Libyan Airlines Flight 114 was a regularly scheduled flight from Tripoli, Libya, via Benghazi to Cairo. At 10:30 on February 21, 1973, the Boeing 727 left Tripoli, but became lost with a combination of bad weather and equipment failure over northern Egypt around 13:44 (local). It entered Israeli-controlled airspace over the Sinai Peninsula, was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 Phantom II fighters, refused to land, and was shot down. Of the 113 people on board, 5 survived, including the co-pilot.
Korean Air Lines Flight 902
Korean Air Lines Flight 902 (KAL902, KE902) was a civilian Boeing 707-321B airliner shot down by Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 fighters on April 20, 1978, near Murmansk, Russia, after it violated Soviet airspace and failed to respond to Soviet interceptors. Two passengers died in the incident. 107 passengers and crew survived after the plane made an emergency landing on a frozen lake.
Air Rhodesia Flight 825
Air Rhodesia Flight 825, was a scheduled flight between Kariba and Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), that was shot down on September 3, 1978, by Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) guerrillas using a Strela 2 missile. Eighteen of the fifty-six passengers of the Vickers Viscount survived the crash, but ten of the survivors were killed by the guerrillas at the crash site.
Air Rhodesia Flight 827
Air Rhodesia Flight 827 was a scheduled flight between Kariba and Salisbury that was shot down on February 12, 1979, by ZIPRA guerrillas using a Strela 2 missile in similar circumstances to Flight RH825 five months earlier. None of the fifty-nine passengers or crew of the Vickers Viscount survived.
Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870
Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9, crashed in the Tyrrhenian Sea on June 27, 1980. Around forty minutes after take off from Bologna, Italy, an unknown object was seen approaching the aircraft and soon after, the plane disappeared from radar screens. All eighty-one people on board died and parts of the wreckage were floating on the water. The cause of the crash is unknown, but one of the leading theories is that it was shot down by NATO forces or jet fighters. This is supported by the then Italian Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga, who attributed the downing to French interceptors, later covered as a part of the Gladio clandestine operation by NATO. On 23 January 2013 Italy’s top criminal court ruled that there was "abundantly" clear evidence that the flight was brought down by a missile.
Korean Air Lines Flight 007
Korean Air Lines Flight 007, also known as KAL 007 or KE007, was a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 civilian airliner shot down by a Soviet Su-15TM fighter on September 1, 1983, near Moneron Island just west of Sakhalin island. 269 passengers and crew, including US congressman Larry McDonald, were aboard KAL 007; there were no survivors. An official investigation concluded that the course deviation was likely caused by pilot error in configuring their air navigation system.
On February 24, 1985, the Polar 3, a Dornier Do 228 research airplane of the Alfred Wegener Institute, was shot down by guerrillas of the Polisario Front over West Sahara. All three crew members died. Polar 3 was on its way back from Antarctica and had taken off in Dakar, Senegal, to reach Arrecife, Canary Islands.
Air Malawi 7Q-YMB
On November 6, 1987, an Air Malawi Shorts Skyvan 7Q-YMB was shot down while on a domestic flight from Blantyre, Malawi to Lilongwe. The flight plan took it over Mozambique where the Mozambican Civil War was in progress. The aircraft was shot down near the Mozambican town of Ulongwe. The eight passengers and two crew on board died.
Iran Air Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was a commercial flight operated by Iran Air that flew from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai, UAE. On July 3, 1988, towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the aircraft flying IR655 was shot down by the U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes when it fired a RIM-66 Standard surface-to-air missile. The airplane was destroyed between Bandar Abbas and Dubai; all 290 passengers and crew died. USS Vincennes was in Iranian waters at the time of the attack, and IR655, an Airbus A300, was allegedly misidentified as an Iranian F-14.
T&G Aviation DC-7
On December 8, 1988 a Douglas DC-7 chartered by the US Agency for International Development was shot down over Western Sahara by the Polisario Front, resulting in 5 deaths. Leaders of the movement said the plane was mistaken for a Moroccan Lockheed C-130. The aircraft was to be used to spray insecticide to control a locust outbreak.
1993 Transair Georgian Airline shootdowns
In September 1993, three airliners belonging to Transair Georgia were shot down by missiles and gunfire in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, Georgia. The first, a Tupolev Tu-134, was shot down on September 21, 1993 by a missile during landing approach. The second plane, a Tupolev Tu-154, was shot down a day later also during approach. A third one was shelled and destroyed on the ground, while passengers were boarding.
Rwandan presidential airliner
The Dassault Falcon 50 airplane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda, on 6 April 1994, killing both presidents. This double assassination was the catalyst for the Rwandan Genocide and the First Congo War. Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with most theories proposing as suspects either the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) or government-aligned Hutu Power extremists opposed to negotiation with the RPF.
Lionair Flight 602
Lionair Flight 602, operated by an Antonov An-24RV, crashed into the sea off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka on September 29, 1998. The aircraft departed Jaffna-Palaly Air Force Base on a flight to Colombo and disappeared from radar screens just after the pilot had reported depressurization. Initial reports indicated that the plane had been shot down by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels. All seven crew and forty-eight passengers died.
2001 Siberia Airlines Flight 1812
On 4 October 2001, Tu-154 crashed over the Black Sea. The plane may have been hit by S-200 surface to air missile, fired from the Crimea peninsula during a Ukrainian military exercise. All on board (66 passengers and 12 crew) died. Then President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma and several high commanders of the military later expressed their condolences to the relatives of the victims.
2003 Baghdad DHL attempted shootdown incident
On November 22, 2003, shortly after takeoff from Baghdad, Iraq, an Airbus A300 cargo plane owned by European Air Transport (a subsidiary of the German express-mail service DHL) was struck on the left wing tip by a surface-to-air missile. Severe wing damage resulted in a fire and complete loss of hydraulic flight control systems. The pilots used differential engine thrust to fly the plane back to Baghdad, and were able to land without any injuries or major aircraft damage.
2007 Balad aircraft crash
On January 9, 2007, an Antonov An-26 crashed while attempting a landing at Balad Air Base in Iraq. Although poor weather is blamed by officials, witnesses claim they saw the plane being shot down, and the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility. Thirty-four of the thirty-five civilian passengers on board died.
2007 Mogadishu TransAVIAexport Airlines Il-76 crash
On March 23, 2007, a TransAVIAexport Airlines Ilyushin Il-76 airplane crashed in outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, during the 2007 Battle of Mogadishu. Witnesses, including a Shabelle reporter, claim they saw the plane shot down, and Belarus has initiated an anti-terrorist investigation, but Somalia insists the crash was accidental. All eleven Belarussian civilians on board died.
2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777-200, flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, crashed near Donetsk in the eastern part of Ukraine. All 283 passengers and 15 crew are reported dead when the plane crashed from roughly 33,000ft (10,000 m). The crash of Flight 17 coincided with claims by Russian separatists from Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine of having shot down a military An-26. At the time, this was the deadliest airliner shootdown in history.
2002 Mombasa attacks
On November 28, 2002, two shoulder-launched Strela 2 (SA-7) surface-to-air missiles were fired at a Boeing 757 airliner owned by Israel-based Arkia Airlines as it took off from Moi International Airport in Mombasa. The missiles missed the plane, which landed safely in Tel Aviv.
- Air-to-air combat losses between the USSR and US
- Flight Guard, a missile defense for civilian aircraft
- List of aircraft hijackings
- Malév Flight 240, possibly a shootdown incident
- Operation Tarnegol, an Egyptian military aircraft shot down by the Israeli Air Force during the Suez Crisis
- Post–World War II air-to-air combat losses
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