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Mahan Air plane intercepted by US fighter jet
On Thursday night, Mahan Air flight 1152 was operating a roughly two hour flight from Tehran to Beirut. The flight was flown by a 30 year old Airbus A310, with the registration code EP-MNF.
For those of you not familiar with Mahan Air, it’s Iran’s largest private airline, and it operates a fleet of just over 50 aircraft. Most of the planes are pretty outdated, given sanctions against Iran, which prevent the airline from buying new Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
Over Syrian airspace a fighter jet approached the plane. This put the pilots into panic mode, as they conducted some extreme maneuvers. It’s not clear if the pilots did this because they were worried they were going to collide, or if this was some sort of a strange avoidance technique (in which case one would think that an A310 can’t exactly outmaneuver a fighter jet).
These extreme maneuvers caused passengers to scream, and some passengers were even injured, as there are videos from onboard of passengers on the floor, bleeding, etc.
US admits it deployed fighter jet
The US military’s Central Command has admitted that an F-15 aircraft was the one involved in the incident, as it was conducting a visual inspection of the initially unidentified aircraft as it passed need the Al-Tanf US military base.
A senior Central Command spokesperson said the following:
“The F-15 conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of about 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the airliner this evening.
The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at At Tanf garrison. Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft.”
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that Iran would take necessary legal and political actions against the US. The US has had sanctions against Mahan Air since 2011, arguing that the airline provides support to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and the airline has also been accused of ferrying weapons for Iranian-linked guerillas. Mahan Air has even as recently as 2019 operated nonstop flights between Iran and Venezuela.
Questions remain unanswered
While hearing both sides of the story sheds some light on how this happened, there are still a few major unanswered questions, in my book:
- Why couldn’t US forces identify the plane without sending out an F-15 to intercept it? The flight could be tracked on Flightradar24, so you’d think it wouldn’t be necessarily to deploy a fighter jet.
- Was the Mahan Air plane deviating from its flight plan?
- Why did the Mahan Air pilots decide to perform such extreme maneuvers that caused injuries? Unless they literally thought they were going to collide with the fighter jet, what’s the upside to that?
Passengers on a Mahan Air A310 suffered minor injuries after pilots performed extreme maneuvers. This happened after a US military F-15 was deployed to visually identify the plane.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions, like why the plane had to be visually inspected, if the plane was deviating from its filed flight plan, and why the Mahan Air pilots responded in such an extreme way.
What do you make of this Mahan Air situation?
(Featured image courtesy of Paul Spijkers)