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]

This incident is believed to be the first commercial passenger plane attacked by hostile forces.[1] On August 24, 1938 – during the Second Sino-Japanese War – the Kweilin, a DC-2 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 died when the Kweilin, which made an emergency water landing to avoid the 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. The plane was refurbished, renamed The Chungking, and was later involved in a 1940 shootdown incident.

1940s[edit]

Kaleva OH-ALL[edit]

Kaleva OH-ALL was a civilian transport and passenger plane (a Junkers Ju 52-3/mge) 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 seven passengers and two crew members on board died.[3]

The Chungking[edit]

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 died 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 2018 an approximate £7–15 million), and the vast majority of these were lost or stolen following the crash.[5][6]

BOAC Flight 777[edit]

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 fighter bombers and crashed into the Bay of Biscay, resulting in the death of all aboard including English actor Leslie Howard.[7]

1950s[edit]

Aeroflot IL-12[edit]

An Aeroflot Ilyushin IL-12 "Coach" airliner operated by the Soviet Navy on 27 July 1953 was shot down just hours before the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement. It was crewed by pilot senior lieutenant Ivan Ignatkin, radioman Nikolay Konovalov and navigator captain Ivan Mulin of the 593rd separate transport aviation regiment of the Air Force of the Soviet Pacific Fleet. Captains Fedor Golovachev, Dmitry Glinyany and senior sergeant Nikolay Bylinok of that unit were also onboard. The flight was ferrying 15 Soviet Naval Aviation personnel from the navy base in Port Arthur, Liaoning, to the Soviet Pacific Fleet garrison at Vladivostok. Aboard were three military doctors of the 27th Laboratory of Aviation Medicine of the Air Force of the Pacific Fleet, lieutenant colonels Vsevolod Larionov and Ivan Subbotovsky and major Vasily Drobnitsky. Others included senior lieutenant Yakov Lekakh and lieutenant Viktor Tarasov from the 1534th Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment and 6 officers and 2 sergeants from the 1744th Long-Range Reconnaissance Aviation Squadron, of which both units were attached to the Pacific Fleet.[8] At approximately 12:30 pm local time a group of four USAF F-86F-30[9] Sabres from the 335th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron that were flying an escort mission near the Yalu River, on the Korean side, spotted the Ilyushin, incorrectly identifying it as a North Korean transport, and broke off to intercept it. Captain Ralph S. Parr Jr then proceeded to fire a long burst from his Browning M3 .50 caliber heavy machine guns. Later investigation revealed that six aboard were immediately killed by bullets and shrapnel from the gunfire.[10] The crippled Ilyushin then crashed on Chinese territory 4km from Mao-erh-shan[11], killing the remaining 15 inside. A great deal of controversy arose due to the location of its wreckage. The Sino-Soviet investigation suggested its plane was shot down over China, while the USAF pilots stated that interception was made fully inside the North Korean border and the wreckage had simply glided into Chinese territory before impacting the ground. The USSR government demanded compensation for the shootdown. A request for $1,861,450 USD was sent to the office of the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union Charles E. Bohlen, but its payment was refused by the US government.[12][13]

Cathay Pacific VR-HEU[edit]

VR-HEU, a Douglas DC-4 airliner operated by Cathay Pacific Airways,[14] en route from Bangkok to Hong Kong on July 23, 1954, was shot down by People's Liberation Army Air Force Lavochkin La-11 fighters off the coast of Hainan Island; 10 on board died.[15][16][17]

El Al Flight 402[edit]

El Al Flight 402, a Lockheed L-149 Constellation, registered 4X-AKC, was a 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 Greek border near Petrich, Bulgaria. All seven crew and 51 passengers on board the airliner died.[18][19]

1960s[edit]

1962 Aeroflot Flight 902[edit]

Aeroflot Flight 902 was a flight on scheduled domestic service from Khabarovsk to Moscow. On June 30, 1962, its wreckage was found 28 kilometers east of Krasnoyarsk airport, in flat terrain. There were no survivors.[20] An entry hole, with signs of fire damage on the cabin side of the fuselage, was consistent with that which could be caused by an anti-aircraft missile, and there was an unofficial confirmation that an anti-aircraft missile had gone astray during an air defense exercise in the area.[20]

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 due to 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, five survived, including the co-pilot.[21][22]

Korean Air Lines Flight 902[edit]

Korean Air Lines Flight 902 (KAL902, KE902) was a civilian Boeing 707 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.[23]

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 56 passengers of the Vickers Viscount survived the crash, but 10 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 59 passengers or crew of the Vickers Viscount survived.[24]

1980s[edit]

Itavia Flight 870[edit]

On 27 June 1980 a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-15 broke up mid-air and crashed into the sea near the Italian island of Ustica, while en route from Bologna to Palermo. All 81 people on board were killed. The cause has been the subject of a decades-long controversy. The aircraft may have been accidentally shot down during a military operation possibly involving NATO and Libyan military aircraft. Another theory is that the plane was bombed by terrorists.

Linhas Aéreas de Angola Yakovlev Yak-40[edit]

On 8 February 1980 Linhas Aéreas de Angola airliner registered D2-TYC, a Yakovlev Yak-40, was shot down near Matala, Angola with the loss of all on board (four crew and 15 passengers). ICAO report a sudden situation took place in response to actions by a foreign aircraft and accidentally the Yak-40 was hit and crashed.[25]

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 1 September 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 the air navigation system.[26]

Polar 3[edit]

On February 24, 1985, the Polar 3, a Dornier Do 228 research airplane of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, West Germany, 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.[27]

Zimex Aviation Lockheed L-100, Angola[edit]

On October 14, 1987, a Lockheed L-100 Hercules registered HB-ILF, owned by the Swiss company Zimex Aviation and operated on behalf of the ICRC, was shot down about four minutes after departing Cuito airport, Angola. It was hit by an unknown projectile fired by unknown combatants during the Angolan Civil War. Four crew members and two passengers died. On the ground, two persons died and one was severely injured.[28][29]

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.[30]

Iran Air Flight 655[edit]

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 regularly flew from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai, UAE. On July 3, 1988, toward the end of the Iran–Iraq War, the aircraft 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. IR655, an Airbus A300 on an ascending flight path, was allegedly misidentified as a descending Iranian F-14.[31]

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 five 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.[32]

1990s[edit]

1992 Shooting of Armenian plane by Azerbaijan military[edit]

A civil aviation Yak-40 plane traveling from Stepanakert airport to Yerevan, with total of 34 passengers and crew, was attacked by an Azerbaijan military Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft. With an engine failure and a fire in rear of the plane, it eventually made a safe landing on the Armenian territory.[33][34][35]

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.[36][37][38]

1994 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. Both presidents died. 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.

1998 Lionair Flight 602[edit]

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 48 passengers died.[39]

2000s[edit]

2001 Siberia Airlines Flight 1812[edit]

On 4 October 2001, Siberian Airlines Flight 1812, a Tupolev Tu-154, crashed over the Black Sea en route from Tel Aviv, Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia. Although the immediate suspicion was of a terrorist attack, American sources proved that the plane was hit by a S-200 surface-to-air missile, fired from the Crimea peninsula during a Ukrainian military exercise, and this was confirmed by the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee. 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.[40]


2003 Baghdad DHL attempted shootdown incident[edit]

Shortly after takeoff from Baghdad on 22 November 2003, an Airbus A300-200F cargo plane registered OO-DLL, was struck on the left wing by a surface-to-air missile whilst en-route to Muharraq, Bahrain.The aircraft lost all hydraulic control meaning the crew had to use engine thrust control to manoeuvre the plane. Despite no controls, a high landing speed and a damaged left wing, the plane touched down at Baghdad airport. Seconds after touch down OO-DLL went off runway due to lack of controls. All 3 people onboard survived, but due to unexploded bombs still being around the airport, the planes position was last reported in 2011 as still being at Baghdad airport.[41]


2007 Balad aircraft crash[edit]

On January 9, 2007, an Antonov An-26 crashed while attempting a landing at Balad Air Base in Iraq.[42] Although poor weather is blamed by officials, witnesses claim they saw the plane being shot down,[43] and the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility. Thirty-four of the 35 civilian passengers on board died.[43]

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.[44] All 11 Belarusian civilians on board died.[45]

2010s[edit]

2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17[edit]

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777-200ER, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was hit by a Soviet-made Buk surface-to-air missile. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed, including 80 children. Joint Investigation Team claimed missile was operated by Russian backed rebels near Donetsk, Ukraine.[46]. Russian President Vladimir Putin denied accusations of Russian involvement.[47]

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). 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. ^ "Инцидент 7.27 – Последние жертвы последнего дня Корейской войны : Единая Корея – информационно-аналитический портал" (in Russian). Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  9. ^ "wpalette.com/en/planes/28379 (F-86F-30)".
  10. ^ "Sabre Attacks Il-12". AntiTerror.One. Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  11. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2016-01-22.
  12. ^ "Up From Kitty Hawk 1947-1953." airforce-magazine.com. Retrieved: 17 July 2011.
  13. ^ Aldrich, Richard (10 June 2010). GCHQ. HarperPress. p. 129. ISBN 0007312660.
  14. ^ ASN Aircraft accident Douglas C-54A-10-DC VR-HEU Hainan Island - Aviation Safety Network
  15. ^ Accident details - VR-HEU - Plane Crash Info
  16. ^ VR-HEU Account by passenger: Valerie Parish Archived 2009-01-27 at the Wayback Machine - Major Commercial Airline Disasters
  17. ^ VR-HEU Archived 2008-08-20 at the Wayback Machine - The Life & Times of James Harper
  18. ^ "ASN record".
  19. ^ Staff writer (August 8, 1955). "Through the Curtain". Time. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  20. ^ a b "Criminal occurrence description – Flight 902". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  21. ^ http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/b727.htm List of 727 incidents.
  22. ^ Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace. Phelps, John Maj. Military Law Review. Vol 107 Winter 1985 Page 288
  23. ^ Karelia
  24. ^ "Description of Air Rhodesia Flight RH827". Aviation-Safety.net. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  25. ^ ICAO Report No. 12/80
  26. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-07-18.
  27. ^ Aviation safety network - Report on Polar 3. Retrieved April 18, 2009.
  28. ^ http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19871014-0
  29. ^ Accident report in French: http://www.sust.admin.ch/pdfs/AV-berichte//1366.pdf
  30. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Shorts SC.7 Skyvan 3-100 7Q-YMB Ulongue". Aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
  31. ^ Military Blunders – Iran Air Shot Down – 3 July 1988. History.com
  32. ^ Accident description for N284 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 November 2013.
  33. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Yakovlev 40 registration unknown Stepanakert". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  34. ^ "CIS region - Авиация в локальных конфликтах - www.skywar.ru". www.skywar.ru. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  35. ^ "U.S. Department of Transportation «Criminal Acts Against Civil Aviation»" (PDF). p. 13.
  36. ^ Criminal Occurrence description for September 21 shootdown at the Aviation Safety Network
  37. ^ Criminal Occurrence description for September 22 shootdown at the Aviation Safety Network
  38. ^ Criminal Occurrence description for September 23 fire at the Aviation Safety Network
  39. ^ Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved November 23, 2006.
  40. ^ Wines, Michael (October 14, 2001). "After 9 Days, Ukraine Says Its Missile Hit A Russian Jet". The New York Times.
  41. ^ "Aviation Photo #1909863: Airbus A300B4-203(F) - Untitled". Airliners.net. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  42. ^ 32 Killed in Cargo Plane Crash in Iraq Archived 2007-01-27 at the Wayback Machine – cbsnews.com – Obtained 28 January 2007.
  43. ^ a b "Moldovan plane that crashed in Iraq was downed – eyewitness". Russian News and Information Agency Novosti. Archived from the original on 17 August 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2007.
  44. ^ 'Somali plane was shot down' - News24.com - Obtained March 25, 2007. Archived February 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ "Missile attack on plane kills 11 Belarusian". The Malaysia Sun. IANS. 24 March 2007. Archived from the original on 2013-06-28.
  46. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/mh17-russia-ukraine-rebels-responsible-downing-malaysia-airlines-plane-prosecution-charges-vladimir-a7334246.html
  47. ^ "St Petersburg International Economic Forum plenary session". Kremlin. 25 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.