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The Ukraine Plane Crash in Iran: Black Boxes and Other Questions



Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

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On Wednesday morning, a passenger plane bound for Ukraine exploded as it slammed into a field in Iran, just minutes after takeoff. The Boeing jet was operated by a Ukrainian carrier, and at least 176 people were on board. None survived.


There was no immediate indication that the crash was related to the recent tensions between Iran and the United States. But questions remained about the cause, and there have been some contradictory statements from officials in both Iran and Ukraine.


The plane’s so-called black boxes could help answer some of those questions, but Iranian officials may not turn the devices over to Boeing, which would typically be involved in an investigation into what went wrong.


What happened Wednesday morning?


The Boeing 737-800, operated by Ukraine International Airlines, left the international airport in Tehran at 6:12 a.m. for Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and abruptly ceased the automatic transmission of flight data two to three minutes later. It remained in the air a few minutes longer and crashed shortly before dawn.

由乌克兰国际航空公司(Ukraine International Airlines)运营的这架波音737-800飞机于凌晨6:12离开德黑兰国际机场前往乌克兰首都基辅,并在2到3分钟后突然停止了飞行数据的自动传输。飞机在空中停留了几分钟,在黎明前不久坠毁。

No one survived. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said in a tweet on Wednesday that there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including nine crew members, 10 people from Sweden, four from Afghanistan, three from Britain and three from Germany.

机上无人生还。乌克兰外交大臣瓦迪姆·普里斯泰科(Vadym Prystaiko)在周三的一条推文说,遇难者中有82名伊朗人,63名加拿大人,11名乌克兰人(包括9名机组人员),10名瑞典人,4名阿富汗人,3名英国人和3名德国人。

But separate breakdowns of the victims’ nationalities diverged, possibly because some passengers had dual nationalities. According to one Iranian tally, there were 147 Iranians and two Canadians.


The Iranian Students’ News Agency, a state-run media organization, shared a video it said showed the predawn crash, with an aircraft, apparently in flames, descending in the distance before a burst of light filled the sky upon impact.

国有媒体机构伊朗学生通讯社(Iranian Students’ News Agency)分享的一段视频显示了飞机在黎明前的坠毁:一架明显在燃烧的飞机在远处下降,然后撞击地面,巨大的火光照亮了天空。

While the cause of the crash remains unclear, some aviation experts said that what was known indicated that the plane could have been attacked. Investigators should have that possibility “at the top of their agenda,” said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States.

虽然坠机原因尚不清楚,但一些航空专家说,已知情况表明这架飞机可能遭到了攻击。前美国国家运输安全委员会(National Transportation Safety Board)执行主任彼得·戈尔兹(Peter Goelz)说,调查人员应该将这种可能性“放在首要位置”。

What did Ukraine and Iran say about the crash?


Early statements from both countries were somewhat contradictory.


Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told the Islamic Republic News Agency, the government’s official news agency, that an engine had caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control.

伊朗道路和城市发展部(Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development)官员卡西姆·宾尼亚兹(Qassem Biniaz)对官方新闻机构伊斯兰共和国通讯社(Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development)说,发动机着火,飞行员无法重新控制飞机。

Iranian news organizations tied to the government initially referred to technical problems with the plane, without providing details or evidence. Ukraine’s Embassy in Iran initially issued a statement ruling out terrorism or a rocket attack as a cause of the crash.


But Ukraine’s statement was later removed from the embassy’s website and replaced by one saying it was too early to draw any conclusions. The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzadeh, told the semiofficial Mehr News Agency that so far there was no evidence of technical problems.

但使馆网站后来删除了乌克兰方面的声明,取而代之的是说现在下结论还为时过早。伊朗民航组织负责人阿里·阿贝扎德(Ali Abedzadeh)告诉半官方的梅赫尔通讯社(Mehr News Agency),到目前为止,尚无证据表明是技术问题。

A spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, Abolfazl Shekarchi, said the crash was not a result of any military action.

伊朗军方发言人阿布尔法兹·谢卡奇(Abolfazl Shekarchi)表示,坠机事件不是任何军事行动的结果。

“They are spreading propaganda that the Ukrainian flight was targeted,” the Iranian news media quoted Mr. Shekarchi as saying. “This is ridiculous. Most of the passengers on this flight were our valued young Iranian men and women. Whatever we do, we do it for the protection and defense of our country and our people.”


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said in a statement that he was “shocked and saddened” that the crash had “claimed the lives of 176 people, including 63 Canadians.”

加拿大总理贾斯汀·特鲁多(Justin Trudeau)在一份声明中说,这场“夺走了包括63名加拿大人在内的176人的生命”的坠机事件让他感到“震惊和悲伤”。

“Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered,” he added.


What about the black box?


After an accident, the “black boxes,” the term used for flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders, can help officials analyze what went wrong. Plane manufacturers are typically involved in those investigations. But in an interview with Mehr, Mr. Abedzadeh said that Iran would not send the recorders to Boeing, an American company.


“We will not give the black box to the manufacturer and the Americans,” Mehr quoted him as saying. Ukrainian officials, he said, would be involved in Iran’s investigation of the crash.


In a statement, Boeing said that “we are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”


Michael Huerta, a former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, said the fact that the crash happened in Iran could complicate analysis.

前联邦航空管理局(Federal Aviation Administration)局长迈克尔·胡尔塔(Michael Huerta)说,坠机事件发生在伊朗这一事实可能会使分析复杂化。

“What is different about this one is that a hostile country is controlling the investigation,” Mr. Huerta said. “In global aviation we would like to think that the technical experts will rule the day, but given that it’s Iran, we’ll have to wait and see.”


Does this have anything to do with the Boeing jets that crashed in 2018 and 2019?


The plane that crashed in Tehran was a Boeing 737-800, which is a separate model from the 737 Max jets that crashed in Indonesia in October 2018 and in Ethiopia in March. The once-popular 737 Max jet remains grounded as investigators examine how an automated system on the planes contributed to the crashes.

在德黑兰坠毁的飞机是波音737-800,和2018年10月在印度尼西亚和3月在埃塞俄比亚坠毁的737 Max属不同的型号。一度很受欢迎的737 Max喷气式飞机目前仍被停飞,因为调查人员在研究飞机自动化系统是如何导致坠机的。

Crashes involving the 737-800 are relatively rare. The model is part of the 737 NG family, which is widely used and generally has a good safety record, but which may need to be re-examined in light of a safety audit by Boeing on the 737 Max.

极少有涉及737-800的事故。该型号是737 NG系列的一部分,该系列已被广泛使用并且通常具有良好的安全记录,但是从波音公司对737 Max进行的安全审核来看,可能需要对其进行重新检查。

Ukraine International Airlines said that the jet that crashed was made in 2016 and had a scheduled maintenance service on Monday.


Is this related to the tensions between the United States and Iran?


There was no immediate indication that the plane had been shot down or otherwise attacked because of the tensions between the two countries.


Those tensions escalated in recent weeks as an American military contractor was killed in Iraq, Iranian-backed militias stormed the United States Embassy compound in Baghdad, and Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed in an American drone strike on Friday.

紧张局势在最近几周升级:一名美国军方在伊拉克的承包商丧生,伊朗支持的武装组织冲进了美国驻巴格达大使馆,伊斯兰革命卫队领导人卡西姆·苏莱曼尼(Qassim Suleimani)少将在周五被美国一架无人机击毙。

On Tuesday, in response to the killing of General Suleimani, Iran fired missiles at two bases in Iraq that housed American troops. The damage appeared to be to the bases’ infrastructure and not to people at the sites.


On Wednesday, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in a tweet that Iran had “concluded” its attacks on American forces and does “not seek escalation or war.” But officials around the region cautioned that the statement did not mean Iran was done maneuvering.

周三,伊朗外交大臣穆罕默德·贾瓦德·扎里夫(Mohammad Javad Zarif)在一条推文中说,伊朗“完成”了对美军的袭击,“无意让冲突升级或挑起战争”。但是该地区的官员警告说,该声明并不意味着伊朗不会有更多动作。

In a statement about the crash, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The United States will continue to follow this incident closely and stands prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance. The United States calls for complete cooperation with any investigation into the cause of the crash.”

国务卿迈克·庞皮欧(Mike Pompeo)在关于坠机事件的声明中说:“美国将继续密切关注这一事件,并随时准备向乌克兰提供一切可能的援助。美国呼吁各方全面合作,调查此次飞机失事的原因。”

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