Iran has promised to transfer the flight recorders from Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 to Kyiv, more than two months after the Iranian military shot the plane out of the sky, killing all 176 people on board.
The commitment was made at a Wednesday meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal by Farhad Parvaresh, Iran’s representative to ICAO. Mr. Parvaresh told the ICAO council that Iran would deliver the two flight recorders – which are expected to contain vital information about the last moments before the plane was destroyed by an anti-aircraft missile early on Jan. 8 – to Ukraine within 14 days.
Iran admitted shortly after the disaster that the flight recorders, also known as “black boxes,” were partly damaged, and that it did not have the technical ability to extract the data they contained. However, Tehran has gone back and forth several times about whether and under what conditions it would send them to Kyiv for examination.
“We hope Iran will not change its mind again,” Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko, said in a message sent to The Globe and Mail. Mr. Shevchenko said Mr. Parvaresh agreed on Wednesday that Ukraine could send the “black boxes” – one of which recorded flight data, the other cockpit conversations – on to France for analysis, if necessary.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne gave the Iranian promise a cautious welcome. “We will judge Iran by obviously their actions,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “We will be following up to make sure this is happening and this is the right step in order to provide transparency and accountability in the investigation that we have.”
Mr. Champagne said Canada would have experts present when the flight recorders were analyzed. One of their tasks, he said, would be to determine whether the devices had been tampered with in any way.
Flight 752 was hit by at least one missile shortly after it took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on Jan. 8. The catastrophe occurred just hours after Iran had launched a ballistic-missile attack on U.S. military bases in neighbouring Iraq, and while Iran’s military was braced for possible U.S. retribution.
One hundred and thirty-eight of those who died aboard Flight 752 were en route to Canada, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents of Canada. There are no direct flights between Canada and Iran, and connecting via Kyiv was one of the cheapest ways to fly between Toronto and Tehran.
Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, who attended the ICAO conference in Montreal, gave a speech calling for Iran to finally hand over the flight recorders.
“We cannot learn from the tragic shoot-down of PS752, unless all the facts are known, and analyzed. Two months after the fact, we should all be increasingly concerned with Iran’s failure to arrange for the readout of the flight recorders despite repeated requests,” Mr. Garneau said, according to his speaking notes.
The ICAO council on Wednesday adopted a new “Safer Skies” proposal, initially put forward by Canada, that commits the United Nations agency to perform a “gap analysis” of the existing procedures for airspace management over conflict zones. The re-examination was prompted by the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over a separatist-controlled part of eastern Ukraine six years ago, as well as the Flight 752 disaster.