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Iran won’t give up black box from Tehran plane crash. Here’s what you need to know

Iran plane crash: Why getting answers won't be easy.

On Wednesday, Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran‘s civil aviation organization, said the country would not give the black box from an aircraft that crashed, killing everyone on board, to Boeing or the United States.

He added that the Ukraine International Airlines airliner’s black box, which contains flight data recorders, would be analyzed in the country where the accident took place in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules.

Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 8, 2020.
Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 8, 2020. Ebrahim Noroozi / The Associated Press

Flight PS752 crashed minutes after takeoff and killed all 176 people on board, including 63 Canadians. Officials said it happened early Wednesday morning, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, but both Ukrainian and Iranian officials said a mechanical issue is likely what caused the Boeing 737-800 aircraft to crash.

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Only speaking briefly about the crash, Abedzadeh told Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency that the pilot did not communicate any problems to air traffic control but said it was still too early to tell what caused the crash.

READ MORE: 63 Canadians killed in plane crash near Tehran — Ukrainian official

“The cause of the accident will not be discovered or announced until the black box is analyzed,” he said.

Abedzadeh said Ukrainian investigators would be involved in the process but ruled out involving the U.S. in the investigation.

“We will not give the black box to the manufacturer [Boeing] or America,” he said.
Video shows aftermath of Ukrainian airliner crash near Tehran
Video shows aftermath of Ukrainian airliner crash near Tehran

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a statement that search-and-rescue teams would be involved in the “investigation, identification and repatriation of the bodies of Ukrainians” killed in the crash.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday offered his condolences to those affected by the crash in a statement and said Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne had been in touch with the government of Ukraine.

“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,” said Trudeau.

How safe are Boeing 737-800 planes?

Members of the International Red Crescent collect the bodies of victims around the wreckage after a Ukrainian airliner crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, killing everyone on board on Jan. 8, 2020.
Members of the International Red Crescent collect the bodies of victims around the wreckage after a Ukrainian airliner crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, killing everyone on board on Jan. 8, 2020. Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA

Boeing has been under a microscope over the last year, facing industrial setbacks following two crashes of its 737 MAX jetliner in five months that killed 346 people.

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In March, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down, killing 157 people — including 18 Canadians — while Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in October, killing 189 people on board. The 737-800 is the predecessor to the MAX 8.

Paul Njoroge of Toronto, who lost his entire family in the crash of a Boeing jet in the March 10 crash in Ethiopia, said hearing about the plane crash brought a “chill” throughout his “entire body.”

“The crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX planes, one that killed my family, were as a result of failure in corporate governance within Boeing and the lapses in oversight by the FAA,” he said. “It is, therefore, of paramount importance that authorities investigating the crash of PS752 focus on the root cause of the crash.”

READ MORE: Iran plane crash faces questions over how probe will proceed amid tensions

“The 737-800, the predecessor to the 737-MAX, has been seen to be reliable over the years. However, any in-built technical issues cannot be tolerated.”

Global News is aware of eight fatal plane crashes involving the 737-800 since it was first launched on Sept. 5, 1994, that were confirmed by a spokesperson from Boeing. At least three of the incidents were labelled pilot-related accidents.

Jock Williams, a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot and aviation expert, said it’s possible that there was a mechanical problem with the plane that crashed Wednesday, but officials won’t know until the black box is properly analyzed.

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“As far as I can see, that aircraft took off out of Tehran, climbed to about 8,000 feet and proceeded to crash.

Video purportedly captures plane crash near Tehran
Video purportedly captures plane crash near Tehran

“I don’t know anything about it except to say that it did get to 8,000 feet, which means that nothing was very wrong when it when it took off,” said Williams “But things go bad very quickly when you’re at full takeoff power. So there could be a mechanical problem with an engine or there could be something else about which we currently know nothing.”

Can Iran legally refuse to hand over the black box?

In a word, yes.

The ICAO’s set of safety initiatives asserts that the investigation into an air crash will be held where it happened, referred to as “the state of occurrence.”

When the plane crashed in Tehran, Iran became the state of occurrence.

In accordance with ICAO rules, Iran is required to produce a preliminary report stating the basic facts within 30 days.

Relatives, colleagues, and friends of crew members of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 which crashed near Tehran lay flowers and light candles at Boryspil International Airport in Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 8, 2020.
Relatives, colleagues, and friends of crew members of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 which crashed near Tehran lay flowers and light candles at Boryspil International Airport in Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 8, 2020. Sergey Dolzhenko / EPA

Williams said there is no requirement for Iran to hand over the black box to the U.S., “but it would be handy” if Iranian officials gave it to another country with necessary equipment to read the data, like Canada or Germany.

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He added that the black box is designed to be read out in a “massive simulator-type cockpit where they can play back the actual time, time-by-time reading of every single aircraft instrument, every motion that the controls are making and so on.”

“You’ve got to have the right piece of equipment to really make use of this data that’s been saved by the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder,” he said. “Using that information in a very short order, you can come up with an exact understanding of what was going on in the plane and what caused it to crash.”

The United States, for its part, is calling for “complete cooperation” with any investigation into the crash. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the U.S. will continue to follow the incident closely and stands prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance.