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.

Definitions used[edit]

  • Airliner: an aeroplane intended for carrying multiple passengers or cargo in commercial service
  • Shoot down: the attack and destruction of an aircraft in flight

1930s[edit]

Kweilin Incident[edit]

This incident is believed to be the first commercial passenger plane attacked by hostile forces.[1] On 24 August 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 in Chinese territory just north of Hong Kong. 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 believed by the Japanese to be aboard but missed the flight. The plane was refurbished, renamed The Chungking, and was later involved in a second shootdown incident in 1940.

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 14 June 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 the Soviet DB-3s. 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 29 October 1940, the exact same DC-2 involved in the previous shootdown incident as "Kweilin", now renamed "Chungking", operated by CNAC, was destroyed by Japanese fighters at Changyi Airfield, Yunnan, China, after it made a scheduled landing and was coming to a stop.[4] Nine people died, including the American pilot Walter "Foxie" Kent and Chinese architect Chang-Kan Chien. The plane caught fire and never flew again.

1942 Qantas Short Empire[edit]

The "Corio", a Short Empire flying boat airliner, operated by Qantas, was shot down by Japanese aircraft in the early days of the Pacific War during World War II off the coast of West Timor, Dutch East Indies, on 30 January 1942. Thirteen occupants were killed. Captain Aubrey Koch, along with another crewman and three passengers, swam to shore and were rescued.[5]

KNILM PK-AFV[edit]

PK-AFV, also known as the PH-ALP Pelikaan (one of the KLM airliners that diverted when Germany invaded The Netherlands), was a Douglas DC-3 airliner operated by KNILM from 1940. On 3 March 1942, while on a flight from Bandung, Netherlands East Indies, to Broome, Australia, with the well-known KLM captain Ivan Smirnov, the plane was attacked by three Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter planes; PK-AFV successfully landed on the beach with damage and an engine fire but was then strafed and the flight-engineer and three passengers (including a baby) were killed. Smirnov had a consignment of diamonds, worth at the time an estimated £150,000–300,000 (in 2019 an approximate £7–15 million), in his possession. The vast majority of these were lost or stolen following the crash.[6][7]

BOAC Flight 777[edit]

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. It crashed into the Bay of Biscay, resulting in the death of all aboard, including English actor Leslie Howard.[8]

AB Aerotransport SE-BAG Gripen[edit]

The Douglas DC-3 was attacked by a German Junkers Ju-88 Luftwaffe fighter-bomber over the coast of Hållö Island, Sweden on 22 October 1943. The aircraft was flying a scheduled passenger flight from Aberdeen to Stockholm. A ditching at sea was attempted but the aircraft flew against the cliffs and crashed. Of the fifteen occupants two survived, the flight-engineer and a passenger, after they were thrown out of the rear part of the aircraft.[9]

1950s[edit]

Cathay Pacific VR-HEU[edit]

VR-HEU, a Douglas DC-4 airliner operated by Cathay Pacific Airways,[10] en route from Bangkok to Hong Kong on 23 July 1954, was shot down by People's Liberation Army Air Force Lavochkin La-7 fighters off the coast of Hainan Island; 10 on board died.[11][12][13]

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 27 July 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.[14][15]

1960s[edit]

1961 United Nations crash[edit]

A United Nations plane carrying UN Secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld and 15 others was shot down in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, as Hammarskjöld was traveling to negotiate a cease-fire during the Congo Crisis. The crash was officially blamed on pilot error, but evidence released in 2014 showed that the plane had been shot down by a Belgian mercenary pilot.[16]

1962 Aeroflot Flight 902[edit]

Aeroflot Flight 902 was a flight on scheduled domestic service from Khabarovsk to Moscow. On 30 June 1962, its wreckage was found 28 km (17 mi) east of Krasnoyarsk airport, in flat terrain. There were no survivors.[17] 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.[17]

1970s[edit]

1973 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 21 February 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 time). 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.[18][19]

1975 Malév Flight 240[edit]

Malév Flight 240 was a regular service from Budapest Ferihegy International Airport, Hungary, to Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. On 30 September 1975, the aircraft operating the route, a Tupolev Tu-154 of Malév Hungarian Airlines, on its final approach for landing, crashed into the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Lebanon. All fifty passengers and ten crew on board are thought to have been killed.[20][21] No official investigation has ever been conducted on the crash by the Hungarian authorities. The aircraft was allegedly shot down during final approach, probably due to its assumed involvement in the Lebanese Civil War.[22]

1978 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 20 April 1978, near Murmansk, Soviet Union, 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]

1978 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 3 September 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 massacred by the guerrillas at the crash site.

1979 Air Rhodesia Flight 827[edit]

Air Rhodesia Flight 827 was a scheduled flight between Kariba and Salisbury that was shot down on 12 February 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]

1980 Itavia Flight 870[edit]

Remains of Itavia Flight 870 at the Museum for the Memory of Ustica, Bologna, Italy

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 United States, French, Italian and Libyan military aircraft. Another theory is that the plane was bombed by terrorists. 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, but the perpetrators are still missing.[25]

1980 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.[26] Unconfirmed reports mention the possible involvement of a Zambian Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19) fighter.[27][28]

1983 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 interceptor 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.[29]

1985 Polar 3[edit]

On 24 February 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.[30]

1985 Bakhtar Afghan Airlines Antonov An-26, Afghanistan[edit]

On 4 September 1985 (during the Soviet–Afghan War), a Bakhtar Afghan Airlines Antonov An-26 (registered YA-BAM) was shot down by a ground-air missile near Kandahar. The aircraft was carrying 47 passengers and 5 crew members and had been on a scheduled flight from Kandahar to Farah. There were no survivors.[31]

1987 Bakhtar Afghan Airlines Antonov An-26, Afghanistan[edit]

On 11 June 1987, a Bakhtar Afghan Airlines Antonov An-26 (registered YA-BAL) was shot down by a missile near Khost, killing 53 out of the 55 people on board. The aircraft had been on a flight from Kandahar to Kabul.[32]

1987 Zimex Aviation Lockheed L-100, Angola[edit]

On 14 October 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.[33][34]

1987 Air Malawi 7Q-YMB[edit]

On 6 November 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.[35]

1988 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 3 July 1988, toward the end of the Iran–Iraq War, the aircraft was shot down by the U.S. Navy 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, including 66 children. 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.[36]

1988 Ariana Afghan Airlines Shootdown[edit]

On 19 November 1988 an Antonov An-26 operated by Ariana Afghan Airlines was flying from Kabul, Afghanistan to Jalalabad, Afghanistan when the pilot lost his way.[37] The aircraft entered Pakistani airspace when the pilot asked for help from a nearby airport in Pakistan. It was subsequently shot down by ground fire from the Pakistan Air Force near Parachinar, Pakistan resulting in 30 deaths.[37] Ministry of Defence of Pakistan claimed that the aircraft was shot down by ground fire when it entered Pakistani territory and failed to identify itself.[37]

1988 T&G Aviation DC-7[edit]

On 8 December 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 on its way to Morocco for a "locust control mission" there. A second aircraft was also hit, but managed to land at Sidi Ifni, Morocco.[38]

1990s[edit]

1992 Shooting of Armenian plane by the Azerbaijan military[edit]

A Yak-40 plane traveling from Stepanakert airport to Yerevan on 27 March 1992, with a 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 Armenian territory.[39][40][41]

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 21 September 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.[42][43][44]

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 29 September 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.[45]

2000s[edit]

2001 Peru shootdown[edit]

On 20 April 2001, a Cessna A185E floatplane registered OB-1408 was shot down by a Peruvian Cessna A-37B Dragonfly attack aircraft over the border Mariscal Ramón Castilla Province of Peru. Two out of four passengers on board were killed, American Christian missionary Roni Bowers and her infant daughter Charity, while the pilot Kevin Donaldson was severely wounded. The incident took place during the Air Bridge Denial Program, when a CIA surveillance plane misidentified the floatplane as involved in drug trafficking and alerted the Peruvian Air Force, resulting in its downing.[46] A year later, the US government paid compensation of $8 million to the Bowers family and the pilot.[47]

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.[48]

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 on board survived. The plane's position was last reported in 2011 as still being at Baghdad airport.[49]

2007 Balad aircraft crash[edit]

On 9 January 2007, an Antonov An-26 crashed while attempting a landing at Balad Air Base in Iraq.[50] Although poor weather is blamed by officials, witnesses claim they saw the plane being shot down,[51] and the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility. Thirty-four of the 35 civilian passengers on board died.[51]

2007 Mogadishu TransAVIAexport Airlines Il-76 crash[edit]

On 23 March 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.[52] All 11 Belarusian civilians on board died.[53]

2010s[edit]

2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17[edit]

On 17 July 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 the missile was operated by Russian backed rebels near Donetsk, Ukraine during the Battle in Shakhtarsk Raion.[54] Russian President Vladimir Putin denied accusations of Russian involvement.[55] At the time, the shootdown was Ukraine's deadliest aviation disaster and the deadliest aviation disaster involving the Boeing 777.[56]

2020s[edit]

2020 Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752[edit]

On 8 January 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by Iran's Armed Forces shortly after take off from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing all 176 people on board.[57][58][59] After initially denying responsibility, Iran admitted on 11 January 2020 that the plane was unintentionally shot down when it was mistaken for a hostile target as it turned towards a "sensitive site" of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.[60]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  44. ^ Criminal Occurrence description for September 23 fire at the Aviation Safety Network
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