List of airliner shootdown incidents

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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.

1930s[edit]

Kweilin Incident[edit]

Main article: Kweilin Incident

Believed to be the first commercial passenger plane destroyed by hostile forces.[1] 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.

1940s[edit]

Kaleva OH-ALL[edit]

Main article: Kaleva (airplane)

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.[2] 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.[3]

The Chungking[edit]

Main article: Chungking (airplane)

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.[4] 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.

KNILM PK-AFV[edit]

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.[5][6]

BOAC Flight 777[edit]

Main article: 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.[7]

1950s[edit]

Cathay Pacific VR-HEU[edit]

VR-HEU, a four-engined propeller-driven Douglas DC-4 airliner operated by Cathay Pacific Airways,[8] 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.[9][10][11]

El Al Flight 402[edit]

Main article: 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.[12][13]

1970s[edit]

Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114[edit]

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.[14][15]

Korean Air Lines Flight 902[edit]

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.[16]

Air Rhodesia Flight 825[edit]

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[edit]

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.[17]

1980s[edit]

Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870[edit]

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.[18] 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.[19]

Korean Air Lines Flight 007[edit]

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.[20]

Polar 3[edit]

Main article: Polar 3

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.[21]

Air Malawi 7Q-YMB[edit]

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.[22]

Iran Air Flight 655[edit]

Main article: Iran Air Flight 655
A missile departs the forward launcher of Vincennes during a 1987 exercise. The forward launcher was also used in the downing of Iran Air 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.[23]

T&G Aviation DC-7[edit]

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.[24]

1990s[edit]

1993 Transair Georgian Airline shootdowns[edit]

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.[25][26][27]

1996 shootdown of Brothers to the Rescue planes[edit]

On February 24, 1996, two of the Cessna Skymasters of Brothers to the Rescue involved in releasing leaflets which fell on Cuban territory were shot down by a Cuban Air Force MiG-29UB. Killed in the shootdowns were pilots Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales.

Rwandan presidential airliner[edit]

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[edit]

Main article: 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.[28]

2000s[edit]

2001 Siberia Airlines Flight 1812[edit]

On 4 October 2001, Tu-154 crashed over the Black Sea. The plane was 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. The President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma and several high commanders of the military expressed their condolences to the relatives of the victims. The Ukrainian Government paid out $200,000 in compensation to the families of every passenger and crew who died when the plane crashed. They paid out a total of $15 million in compensation for the accident.[29]

2003 Baghdad DHL attempted shootdown incident[edit]

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.[30] 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.[31]

2007 Balad aircraft crash[edit]

On January 9, 2007, an Antonov An-26 crashed while attempting a landing at Balad Air Base in Iraq.[32] Although poor weather is blamed by officials, witnesses claim they saw the plane being shot down,[33] and the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility. Thirty-four of the thirty-five civilian passengers on board died.[33]

2007 Mogadishu TransAVIAexport Airlines Il-76 crash[edit]

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.[34] All eleven Belarussian civilians on board died.[35]

2010s[edit]

2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17[edit]

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 33,000 ft (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.[36]

Near misses[edit]

2002 Mombasa attacks[edit]

Main article: 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.[37][38][39]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gregory Crouch (2012). "Chapter 13: The Kweilin Incident". China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom during the Golden Age of Flight. Bantam Books. pp. 172–189. 
  2. ^ Virtualpilots - Tapauskaleva. Retrieved January 1, 2007.
  3. ^ *Petrov, Pavel (2008). Punalipuline Balti Laevastik ja Eesti 1939-1941 (in Estonian, translated from Russian). Tänapäev. ISBN 978-9985-62-631-3. 
  4. ^ Gregory Crouch (2012). "Chapter 17: Ventricular Tachycardia,". China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom during the Golden Age of Flight. Bantam Books. pp. 240–242. 
  5. ^ Wills, Juliet; Van Velzen, Marianne (2006), The Diamond Dakota mystery, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-74114-745-2 
  6. ^ Tyler, William H (1987), Flight of Diamonds : the story of Broome's war and the Carnot Bay diamonds, Hesperian Press, ISBN 978-0-85905-105-7 
  7. ^ Rosevink, Ben and Lt Col Herbert Hintze. "Flight 777." FlyPast, Issue No. 120, July 1991.
  8. ^ ASN Aircraft accident Douglas C-54A-10-DC VR-HEU Hainan Island - Aviation Safety Network
  9. ^ Accident details - VR-HEU - Plane Crash Info
  10. ^ VR-HEU Account by passenger: Valerie Parish - Major Commercial Airline Disasters
  11. ^ VR-HEU - The Life & Times of James Harper
  12. ^ "ASN record". 
  13. ^ Staff writer (August 8, 1955). "Through the Curtain". Time. Retrieved March 10, 2011. 
  14. ^ http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/b727.htm List of 727 incidents.
  15. ^ Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace. Phelps, John Maj. Military Law Review. Vol 107 Winter 1985 Page 288
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "Description of Air Rhodesia Flight RH827". Aviation-Safety.net. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  18. ^ "Strage di Ustica, nuove indagini Sentito Cossiga: un missile francese". Archiviostorico.corriere.it. 2009-12-24. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  19. ^ "Italian court: Missile caused 1980 Mediterranean plane crash; Italy must pay compensation". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 23 January 2013. [dead link]
  20. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-07-18.
  21. ^ Aviation safety network - Report on Polar 3. Retrieved April 18, 2009.
  22. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Shorts SC.7 Skyvan 3-100 7Q-YMB Ulongue". Aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  23. ^ Military Blunders – Iran Air Shot Down – 3 July 1988 History.com
  24. ^ Accident description for N284 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 November 2013.
  25. ^ Criminal Occurrence description for September 21 shootdown at the Aviation Safety Network
  26. ^ Criminal Occurrence description for September 22 shootdown at the Aviation Safety Network
  27. ^ Criminal Occurrence description for September 23 fire at the Aviation Safety Network
  28. ^ Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved November 23, 2006.
  29. ^ Wines, Michael (October 14, 2001). "After 9 Days, Ukraine Says Its Missile Hit A Russian Jet". The New York Times. 
  30. ^ Great escape
  31. ^ "Air Crash Investigators"
  32. ^ 32 Killed in Cargo Plane Crash in Iraq – cbsnews.com – Obtained 28 January 2007.
  33. ^ a b "Moldovan plane that crashed in Iraq was downed – eyewitness". Russian News and Information Agency Novosti. Retrieved 22 January 2007. 
  34. ^ 'Somali plane was shot down' - News24.com - Obtained March 25, 2007.[dead link]
  35. ^ "Missile attack on plane kills 11 Belarusian". The Malaysia Sun. IANS. 24 March 2007. Archived from the original on 28 June 2013. 
  36. ^ "Donetsk People’s Republic militia downs another Ukraine’s An-26 plane — eyewitnesses". ITAR-TASS. July 17, 2014. 
  37. ^ Israel evacuates tourists from Kenya. BBC News. 29 November 2002.
  38. ^ UK condemns Kenya bomb attack. BBC News. 28 November 2002.
  39. ^ Al-Qaeda suspected in Kenya attacks. BBC News. 28 November 2002.