1981 Armenia mid-air collision

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1981 Armenia mid-air collision
Accident summary
Date 18 July 1981
Summary Mid-air collision
Site near Yerevan, Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic
Total fatalities 4
Total survivors 1
First aircraft
Transporte Aereo Rioplatense Canadair CL-44.jpg
Canadair CL-44 of TAR at Basle Airport in October 1976. The same aircraft was involved in the 1981 collision.
Type Canadair CL-44
Operator Transporte Aéreo Rioplatense
Registration LV-JTN
Flight origin Tehran, Iran
Destination Larnaca, Cyprus
Passengers 1
Crew 3
Survivors 0
Second aircraft
Su-15 Flagon.jpg
An Su-15
Type Sukhoi Su-15
Operator Soviet Air Defense Forces
Crew 1
Survivors 1

The 1981 Armenia mid-air collision occurred on 18 July 1981 when a Soviet Air Defense Forces Sukhoi Su-15 crashed into the tail of a Transporte Aéreo Rioplatense Canadair CL-44 commercial transport which had strayed into Soviet airspace over the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. The three crew and one passenger on the Argentine aircraft died; the Soviet pilot was able to eject to safety. It is unclear whether the collision was intentional;[1] the Soviet pilot said it was a deliberate attempt to down the enemy aircraft, while Western aviation experts examining his account believed he misjudged a turn and subsequently invented a story of self-sacrifice.[2]


As part of the Iran–Contra affair, Israel and Argentina collaborated with the United States to send arms to Iran to assist in arming Nicaraguan contras. Transporte Aéreo Rioplatense, which was revealed to be operated by high-ranking officials in the Argentine Air Force, transported military equipment from Israel to Iran, in support of the latter during its war with Iraq.[3]

Scotsman Stuart Allen McCafferty was hired to transport 360 tons of United States-made tank spare parts and ammunition from Tel Aviv to Tehran, and had a Swiss partner, arms dealer Andreas Jenni. McCafferty allegedly approached numerous United States charter airlines, offering them US$175,000 to operate 15 flights which would carry "pharmaceuticals" between Israel and Iran, but none of them were interested. In June 1981, McCafferty travelled to Buenos Aires, where he persuaded Transporte Aéreo Rioplatense to charter him one of their CL-44 cargo aircraft.[4][5]

After completing the first two round-flights from Tel Aviv to Tehran, via Larnaca in Cyprus, the airline was returning to Cyprus after having delivered the third tranche of cargo to Iran, when on 18 July 1981 the incident occurred.[1][4][5][6]


The incident occurred near the intersection of the borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. (Armenia, unlabelled, is the central area shown in light brown.)

On its return flight from Tehran, the aircraft strayed off course. After heading towards the Turkish border, it strayed into Soviet airspace in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, which led the Soviets to scramble an Air Defense Forces Sukhoi Su-15 (NATO reporting name "Flagon") to intercept the aircraft. According to Soviet reports, the crew failed to respond to radio calls and visual signals from the pilot of the fighter aircraft. The crew of the CL-44 attempted to get away from the area, and the Soviet pilot directed his aircraft into the tail of the escaping aircraft, causing both aircraft to crash near Yerevan in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Soviet fighter pilot managed to eject to safety, but the four occupants of the CL-44 – three Argentine crew and McCafferty, who had chartered the aircraft – died.[1] Jenni, the arms dealer who procured the arms that had been delivered by the aircraft to Tehran, disputed these events, claiming that the aircraft was shot down 125 miles (201 km) inside Turkish territory.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b c "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  2. ^ James Oberg, The Bloody Border: Chapter 3 from 'Uncovering Soviet Disasters' Random House, 1988 Pp. 32-49
  3. ^ Joseph, Gilbert Michael; Spenser, Daniela (2008). "Transnationalizing the Dirty War: Argentina in Centra America". In from the cold: Latin America's new encounter with the Cold War. Armony, Ariel C. Duke University Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-8223-4121-2. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  4. ^ a b c "Soviets down Argentine plane. Did crash involve Israel-Iran deal?". The Bulletin (Bend). London. 28 July 1981. pp. D–4. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  5. ^ a b c "Israel sold arms to Iran: claim". The Age. London. 27 July 1981. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  6. ^ Reier, Jochen (2008). Mit dem Lkw durch die islamische Revolution im Iran (in German). Lulu.com. p. 171. ISBN 3-00-025513-3. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 

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