An Unfortunate Confluence

You can’t deny that the 2 biggest news stories of recent weeks are the Ukraine Bribery/Extortion Scandal and the United States’ Assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Now I certainly don’t mean to imply that there is any but coincidental connection between them (well, except for Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio) but I found this both tragic and odd.

Ukrainian passenger jet carrying over 170 people crashes in Iran, killing all on board
By Isabelle Khurshudyan, Erin Cunningham, and Sarah Dadouch, Washington Post
Jan. 8, 2020

A Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 people from Tehran suddenly plummeted into a field early Wednesday without a mayday from the cockpit, killing all aboard and leaving investigators hoping that recovered flight data can offer clues on the cause.

In the aftermath of the crash — whose passengers and crew included Iranians, Europeans and more than 60 Canadians — Ukraine banned all flights from Iranian airspace. A similar move was already taken by several other countries amid rising tensions between Iran and U.S. forces in the region.

Meanwhile, the probe into the crash was underway with Iran pointing to a possible aircraft malfunction and Ukraine apparently leaving open other paths of inquiry.

At least one U.S.-based aviation expert said it appeared the plane was “not intact” before it hit the ground. And a former Federal Aviation Administration accident investigation chief, Jeff Guzzetti, said the crash carried “all the earmarks of an intentional act.”

“I just know airplanes don’t come apart like that,” Guzzetti said.

The Ukraine International Airlines flight, bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, went down just before dawn after departing from Imam Khomeini International Airport, south of Tehran. The plane was approaching 8,000 feet when it abruptly lost contact with ground control, officials said.

Iranian authorities said “technical” problems were likely behind the crash of the Ukrainian Boeing 737-800.

Ukraine’s Embassy in Tehran initially concurred, issuing a statement ruling out terrorism and suggesting likely engine failure. It later took down the statement without explanation, raising questions about whether different scenarios — including an “external” cause such as a missile — were being explored as potential reasons for the crash.

But Iranian officials pushed back again that theory. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, an Iranian armed forces spokesman, said “rumors” that a missile brought down the plane were “completely false.”

He was quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency as calling the missile speculation “psychological warfare” by the government’s opponents.

The Ukrainian Embassy said a commission was investigating the crash and that “any statements about the causes of the accident before the decision of the commission are not official.”

The speculation about what caused the crash gets pretty wild and, this is the Washington Post we’re talking about here, not some QAnon Chat on Reddit.

In the article are the facts that the Ukraine International Airlines plane was purchased new in 2016 (so not old for an Airplane) and had undergone routine maintainance as recently as Monday, the day before the crash.

The Boeing 737-800 is a single-aisle aircraft designed for short and medium-range flights. Airlines around the world have flown them for more than two decades, with thousands of them in service.

But the plane has been involved in accidents. In 2018, a crash in Papua New Guinea killed 47 people, a 2016 crash from Dubai killed 62, and a 2010 Ethiopian Ethiopian Airlines crash claimed 90 lives.

Regulators have more recently scrutinized possible safety risks on the 737-800. In early October, the FAA told airlines to inspect more than 1,900 Boeing jets after cracks were found in some of the aircraft’s wings. Dozens of them were later grounded after cracks were found in a part of the plane that connects the wings to the fuselage.

Then, there’s this sort of thing which is not at all speculation but the sad reality of market economics.

Iran crash presents embattled Boeing with new crisis
By Taylor Telford and Douglas MacMillan, Washington Post
Jan. 8, 2020

The disaster comes as Boeing struggles to rehabilitate its image after two fatal crashes within five months led to the global grounding of its 737 Max in 2019. That crisis has cost Boeing more than $9 billion and led to the firing of chief executive Dennis Muilenburg just weeks ago. The Chicago-based company is facing scores of lawsuits from victims’ families, shareholders and airlines such as American and Southwest. In December, Boeing announced it would indefinitely stop production on the Max in January — which it had continued to produce at the cost of $1.5 billion a month — a stoppage that could ripple throughout the economy and jeopardize tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

The 737-800 is one of Boeing’s most popular planes, with thousands in operation worldwide. It’s part of a class of aircraft known as “next generation,” or NG, which has been in service since the mid-1990s, and does not use the MCAS flight control system whose flaws played a role in the 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

The Iran crash was the 10th fatal accident of a Boeing 737 NG plane in its commercial life, according to Todd Curtis, an aviation safety analyst for the website AirSafe.com. The plane has had about 0.06 fatal events per million flights, the lowest rate among modern aircraft that have flown for several years, Curtis said. A 737-800 was involved in a 2018 crash in Papua New Guinea that killed 47, a 2016 flight from Dubai that killed 62, and a 2010 Ethiopian Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 90.

The plane has faced regulatory scrutiny recently. In early October, the Federal Aviation Administration told airlines to inspect more than 1,900 Boeing jets after cracks were found in some of the aircraft’s wings. Dozens of them were later grounded after cracks were found in a part of the plane that connects the wings to the fuselage.

The plane’s CFM56 engines are jointly produced by General Electric and Safran, a French manufacturer. The CFM56 is among the best-selling jet engines in the world, with more than 30,000 of them delivered to date, according to the company’s website. In a statement, the company said any speculation regarding the cause of the Iran crash is “premature.”

Modern aircraft are designed to be able to fly safely for more than an hour in the event of engine failure with a single engine, but a significant failure could cause damage to other parts of an aircraft.

Rescue workers recovered the black box from the crash site, Iranian state media reported, but Ali Abedzadeh, head of Tehran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said Tehran will not send it to the United States — as some countries do for assistance in data collection. He said Iran would lead in the investigation of the crash, which killed 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to a tweet from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko.

“Politics have no place in an accident investigation. We fly these airplanes all around the world, all across geographic borders,” Cox said. “The investigation needs to be excluded from the tensions of any governments. I am hopeful the Iranians will follow international protocol and allow any parties that can add value to the investigation.”

He added grounding the plane would be “ill-advised” until much more information is available.

Boeing is the single biggest component of the Dow Jones industrial average. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC in August that problems with the 737 Max had been big enough to shave 0.4 percent off the entire U.S. gross domestic product for a period this year. Ross said he expected an uptick when the problems were fixed, but it’s unclear what the effect might be, as Boeing is stopping the jet’s production. Its shares fell 1.3 percent in premarket trading.

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