Injuries After US Fighter Jet Intercepts Iranian Airliner

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Some passengers on a Mahan Air flight were injured after the plane was intercepted by a US fighter jet last night, in what can only be described as a bizarre incident.

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 Most of the planes are pretty outdated, given sanctions against Iran, which prevent the airline from buying new Airbus and Boeing aircraft.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?

Bottom line

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)

Comments
  1. The US is constantly trying to escalate tensions with Iran in the hopes that Iran will respond with an attack. We really need to stop meddling in that region, all our presence and actions do is further destabilize it.

  2. @BenL: Why do you instantly assume the U.S. is the one who escalated tensions? Ben’s story was pretty well balanced, asking questions from both perspectives. We know Iran is not a friend to the US, so maybe this action was justified?

  3. Iran: How dare you look at us from 3,300 feet away. Look at this guy’s bloody nose you caused.

    Also Iran: Downed Ukranian airliner with 167 passengers? Well that could be anything…engine failure, pilot error, faulty maintenance, one of our missiles, but who really knows? It could be anything.

  4. If the roles were reversed, the US hue and cry would be heard Worldwide.
    Please avoid a war with another Middle East country.

  5. Thank COVID19 from giving us a break from all the wars and military escalations, simply because governments could no longer afford it.
    Now months later, whether Governments have a better understanding of COVID19, have better control, have vaccines in testing or secured funding; They are back to military escalations.
    It took a pandemic and 500,000+ deaths worldwide to take a break. What now?
    What a horrible World We Live In…

  6. holy smokes. Why is everything going wrong? China just closed a US consulate in Chengdu in response to the consulate closure in Houston. And now this…? I bet the ADS-B transponder of the Mahan Air Jet was switched on and there were no communication gaps between the controller and the crew, so why was that even necessary? I mean, most of the flights to Beirut like MEA, QR, EK fly through the same air corridor and yet there was no sort of testing there.

    And of course, Defence systems include a lot more than what we think it includes. So, I don’t think it would be right for us to come to our own conclusions.

  7. Lol I don’t think the military checks Flightradar24. With tensions high in the region the most likely reason for the intercept was to visually confirm that it was a civilian airliner and that it wasn’t posing a threat to the base. What if it was a military transport with paratroopers onboard? We don’t have enough details in your article. If the jet was on a direct course to overfly the coalition base then I get why they intercepted it. I feel like there is a misconception of how military radar works. Now the transponder would provide all the necessary information but a radar can just provide an educated guess (ie speed altitude size).

  8. To add on to what I said above…to determine if this was justified would all depend. Even if the transponder was on if the aircraft was descending/slowing down etc…that would be suspicious. Also transponders can be faked. Militaries have disguised transponder signals in the past and prevented to be civilian aircraft before launching an invasion. Long story short like @Bruh said we can’t come to conclusions with the info provided.

  9. @David asks why I “instantly assume the U.S. is the one who escalated tensions.”

    It’s an American fighter jet conducting uninvited operations in a foreign country’s airspace, my man. Its very presence is escalatory.

    This can be kind of hard to understand if you’re of the mindset that the US is entitled to unilaterally deploy its military wherever it wants, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward

  10. Reversely, if Iran is doing the same thing to a US commercial flight, would you call this action justfied? Hypocricy at its peak.

  11. Many people are questioning why the Iranians are making such a big deal of US sending fighter jets on their civilian plane. Don’t forget that the legacy of Iran air 655 has left historical scars in people’s minds. If I were the pilots on that flight and I saw US F-15’s, I’d be scared for my life too

  12. Here’s a “hot take”: absolutely nothing will come out of this.

    On the bright side, good to see everyone on board wearing masks and even protective shields!

  13. If there is a US army base in Syria, then how come there aren’t any army bases of any middle eastern country in or near the US?

  14. The question is whether the US F-15 pilots turned off their transponders before approaching the Iranian passenger airliner.

    I recall an incident awhile ago where a US fighter jet decided to “check out” a passing airliner near New York, causing its TCAS to go off and passengers hitting ceilings. Recommendations as a result of that incident was to make sure transponders are turned off during an intercept.

    Passenger airliners are sometimes pitch sensitive at cruising altitude. A TCAS RA calling for an immediate climb or descend could easily send passengers flying.

  15. Original article: 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.

    Comment: If I were an air force of a superpower, I wouldn’t rely on Flightradar 24 as my air defense system. A Russian equivalent of a B-52 could appear as a civilian flight. That would be like saying “we don’t need an army patrols on the Korean DMZ, we have google maps”

  16. Joey: If there is a US army base in Syria, then how come there aren’t any army bases of any middle eastern country in or near the US?

    Comment: Singapore has troops in the US. During the Hurricane Katrina cleanup, they sent troops and helicopters to prevent looting. No other country did so. The UK sent rotten beef which couldn’t be eaten.

  17. This is pretty standard military monitoring of sensitive airspace. Al-Tanf is a small garrison just over the border into Syria from Jordan. The Russian, Iranian, and Syrian governments have wanted it removed for years because it blocks a key road between Syria’s major cities and Iraq, thus blocking Iran from running big trucks with weapons from Iran to Syria. Those trucks would otherwise have to run through US-monitored or Kurdish-monitored territory.

    ANY aircraft over Al-Tanf will get the same treatment, EXCEPT that if the plane was an unidentified military aircraft (smaller, faster, etc.) it likely would have been challenged and fired upon long before reaching the base. That this aircraft was larger / slower and coming from Iran likely meant the US military was being careful to ensure this was in fact a civilian transport not visibly demonstrating harmful intent.

    Make no bones about it: the Iranians would love to bomb the base. Anyone who thinks otherwise has paid little attention to Iranian and Russian actions near Al-Tanf for the past few years. There have been multiple live fire exchanges between US, Russian, and Iranian-backed forces.

  18. I recall when the Russians shot down Korean Air down the central question all Americans asked in response to Russia saying they thought it was a spy plane was where did the Russians think the regularly scheduled KAL JFK to Seoul flight was.

    When we shot down an Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai no Americans asked the same question.

    So I repeat. Where did the USAF think the scheduled Mahan Air flight was? Or do we simply plonk lethal military assets in volatile regions without bothering to study and monitor regular civilian traffic over that region?

  19. Iran? They do this shit all the time with their Revolutionary Guard Navy harassing the US Navy by being extremely close to them on International waters.

  20. I understand the pilots were definitely concerned over this, but they should also know how to handle this kind of a situation. As the pilots, you’re job is to also protect the lives of those on board. Some extreme maneuvering wasn’t a good idea. We’re lucky that the US pilot didn’t take that as an odd sign and further push the intercept.

  21. @Ed For what it’s worth, the roles are reversed almost every single day with Russian and Chinese aircraft getting much closer to US aircraft. We publicize it and bitch a little, but there’s really no “hueing and cry.”

  22. Shot the SOB down and ask question later just as Russia does or Iran did
    – Roger

    That’s pretty dark if you actually believe that’s the correct course of action. It’s also a war crime.

  23. Apparently the successor of Qasem Soleimani, head of IRGC Qods Force, Esmail Ghaani, is onboard the Mahan Air A310, enroute to Beirut, meeting Hezbollah officials.

    The US obviously wants to terminate this man just like they attacked BGW (Baghdad) in order to kill Soleimani.

  24. Did you see the news reports of the elderly looking man laying in the aisle? Yet, no serious injuries were reported? This is way blown out of proportion by the Iranian government. Total lie.

  25. @AW Really? When did Russian or Chinese aircraft get much closer to a US civilian airliner on a third country’s territory? If they did I’m sure the US would be much much angrier.

    There’s a world of a difference if the intercepted plane is a spy plane spying on the interceptor country.

    Do not try to equate the two.

  26. Modern interior on that A310 – page out of the Delta / Northwest playbook. Are those slim line seats?

  27. Question 1, if the airliner doesn’t violate No fly zone or restricted airspace, why the need for F15? They never heard of transponder?

    2: why does the US have control over foreign airspace?

    3. While rest of Asia was preparing for pandemic in January, the US were busy impeaching, Australian bushfire and starting war in iran. Now they haven’t even handled the virus and now they instigate again?

    FYI the US gave asylum to any dictator like the shah with any human rights record as long as they’re pro US.

  28. Funny how liberals will make excuses for the worst actors on earth, such as Iran and China, if it makes the US look bad. If Obama was still POTUS would you be making these same comments? Be honest with yourself.

    This is standard procedure if your enemy is flying over your base. You can’t trust Iran, so you can’t trust their transponder data. I mean come on, stop being naive, you children. Their untrained pilots ridiculous panicked response is not our fault or our problem.

  29. @Lucky – “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?”

    Maybe because they thought they were going to be shot down and were taking evasive maneuvers to avoid what they thought could be an incoming missile. It wouldn’t be the first time a commercial airliner in the region was shot down…

  30. Also, for the comparison to Iran Air 655 and justifying the pilots “fearing for their life” as result, a commercial airliner has never been shot out of the sky by a US fighter jet. Equating a missile attack from 35 years ago as motivation for assuming visual confirmation by a fighter jet (which is not easily identifiable as a US plane from more than half a mile away considering that jet is also flown by the Israelis and Saudis) is a lame excuse to defend Iran and criticize the US.

  31. ‘Why can’t the military just use FR24?”

    Lol, are you really so far out of touch that you think that FR24 is the gold standard for tracking and identifying an aircraft? And think that a transponder signal could not be spoofed?

    They wanted to confirm that the airliner was indeed an airliner as it was near a US Military Base. You know, to make sure they are not trying to collect any information about the base-what’s there and where, or worse.

  32. @WR2 I’m only going to speak for myself, and certainly not for whatever collective of strawmen you have in your head, but the problem is that the US has a base in Syria in the first place. It’s a problem whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. It is imperialistic, it provokes tensions, and it destabilizes the region. It’s incredibly stupid and arrogant to plop a base in a foreign country without their consent and then use that base’s presence as a justification for sorties against aircraft in the area.

  33. If the roles were reserved?!… Clearly non of you have heard of the Iran Navy not only intercepting foreign oil tankers, in the Gulf, but also boarding them and *hijacking* them.

    Also, what’s the point in even having an Air Force if we have *check notes* Flightradar24…

  34. This was an unnecessary move if the US really wanted to identify the aircraft. It was deliberate to scare and provoke the Iranians as Trump looks for something to give him a boost. Fortunately, this ended without a major disaster and Russia, which operates in that air space, didn’t scramble its fighter jets. Now, at some point, Iran will probably retaliate. I hope they don’t take the bait.

  35. Let us examine this from the US’s Military point of view.
    1. Known collaborator to Iranian Republican Guard is operating a flight near restricted airspace.
    2. Same aircraft clearly was not squawking or had incorrect IFF code in transponder, and while skin paint of the radar without IFF will show speed and altitude, it does not show intent.
    3. We do not know what transpired in regards to clearance etc. but we can assume that the military did not scramble a F-15 just to see the pretty lights on the airlines fabulous livery.
    4. This would not be the first and probably not the last time this happens. The Iranians have attempted to destabilize the region since the Iran Iraq war, and since the fall of the Shah.

    Now I would not be surprised if this was some sort of intentional feel what they are going to do flight including intentional over reaction and feigned indignant over supposed injuries. We are not friends with Iran and to assume they are the good guys is ludicrous as well. When you are in a war zone one must take all precautions, including making sure that your clearance is not near sensitive military installations, be they friend or foe.

  36. It’s provocative SH*T by US, nothing else PERIOD.

    As @Ed said reverse it and then see how the World media and officials jump on saying “provocative Iran bla bla bla “

    No country, none airline should be in this situation.

  37. “the problem is that the US has a base in Syria in the first place. It’s a problem whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. It is imperialistic, it provokes tensions, and it destabilizes the region. It’s incredibly stupid and arrogant to plop a base in a foreign country without their consent and then use that base’s presence as a justification for sorties against aircraft in the area.”

    THIS ^^^^ ALL OF THIS.

    Google a map of how many military bases the United States has scattered around the globe … and then imagine all of those bases plunked down in and around the United States, staffed by foreign military.

    Absolutely shameful. America’s just not happy unless it’s bombing the bejeezus out of someone to keep the profits flowing to the military contractors.

  38. As the US continues its decline in the world, those making anti-US comments will miss the militaristic, imperialistic, trigger happy US when they are under the thumb of a truly imperialistic China flexing its economic and military muscle throughout the world aided by Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and all the other anti-democratic bad actors in the world.

  39. I’ve routinely had visual intercepts over the Yellow Sea between China and DPRK (North Korea) when flying between SFO-PVG never has it required evasive action by the pilots though. Surpringly it seems to happen more often on a Chinese airline than an American airline.

  40. Since losing every war they have been in since WWII (I am sure you “patriots” will shout we beat Iraq) the US continues their aggressive attitude just wishing they can drop another nuke. Or maybe justify the billions spent on a worthless military. It needs to end. Especially with little fingers in office. Stay out of the ME. You have no understanding of it and quite frankly Capitalism with Democracy is a failed experiment.

  41. @Ben L

    literally everything you wrote is wrong. You justify defending countries that are breeding grounds for terrorism and throw the US under the bus. You must have been 1 years old on 9/11. BTW which never would have happened under President Trump’s watch. The US would have captured Bin Laden after the first failed attempt to bring down the World Trade Center in ‘94 which at the time Bill Clinton was busy in the WH sexually assaulting college interns. Keep attacking people for their expressing their views because the silent majority will once again prevail in November.

  42. Ben, you are incredibly naive about the security situation in the Middle East. In short, this Iraqi airspace is an actual or near to war zone. The US Air Force did nothing wrong in making a security assessment to protect American and coalition forces. The notion that one relies on “Flight Tracker” for a security assessment would be irresponsible and most likely result in a courts martial for the officer in command if anything adverse had actually happened based on reliance on Flight Tracker. Sending up a jet to make a visual identification is standard SOP in this type of security situation. I have been in Saudi and seen US Patriot Batteries intercept and destroy Iranian made missiles fired Yemen and Iraq. This is during the last 24 months. Thus, the security risks are real and there is no need for you to do a check out report on the Baghdad Hilton.

    Regarding remarks by those claiming the US is trying to provoke a war, that is not true. Despite the increased US and Iran tensions over the past 3 years, the President has shown remarkable restraint in not taking the bait when Iran tries to goad the US into a Military response by attacking civilian maritime traffic in the Gulf and downing US surveillance drones in international airspace. That is why the President sacked John Bolton who wanted to get us into a War with Iran… the last thing we need!

    W

  43. @wright

    While you “comment” is humorous, I found this particularly odd:

    “ That is why the President sacked John Bolton who wanted to get us into a War with Iran… the last thing we need!”

    Trump has done nothing but instigate issues with Iran and has taken ME policy back 50 years. But to say that is why he fired Bolton is just hilarious. So a man that watches Fox News 17 hours a day didn’t know Bolton’s policy positions? Why did he bring him in in the first place? He himself was leaning that direction. Then figured out it was a losing proposition. Trump knows less on the international front than he does on the domestic. He is running with zero plan. He just wings it and invariably is wrong. Please don’t try and support his or the US position on Iran now. It is a failure.

  44. So, Other Ray, what would be your favored form of government other than democratic capitalism?

  45. As a former US military pilot, I’ve done dozens of intercepts around the world, and procedures are clear–you can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to disturb the flight of the aircraft you were sent up to identify. You just report the news and go home, or shadow if ordered to do so. It could even be a court-martial offense. As a former airline pilot, I can also state that the Iranian pilots’ maneuver could have been a knee-jerk reaction to the unfamiliar situation of seeing a fighter plane out your window (parenthetically, demonstrating a severe lack of professionalism and/or training, probably both) or worse, done intentionally to try to create an international incident out of essentially nothing. By the way, you can’t ID an aircraft by radar or FR24 or any other means except visual. The ID was legitimate given the ongoing military depredations and provocations in the region by the Iranians and the Russians against US and allied interests. We had a right to be there.

  46. Raleigh Truitt, excellent response! A rational view of the intercept given the tensions in the area.

  47. It’s a worthy question. Putting aside for a moment the fact that the blog is about airlines and not about world politics, it can be said that all US Administrations since Eisenhower at least have believed that the US has had many interests in the Middle East–some altruistic and humanitarian, some strategic (oil, Israel, Russia, and now Iran), and some commercial (oil). It is not necessary to argue about the relevance of the ascriptive interests today in order to admit that since we ARE in the Middle East, we need to protect our interests there, which include some very valuable military assets including, not least, our boots on the ground. We’re not alone; we have coalition partners who believe, as have our leaders over the years, that US and allied presence there has done more good than harm over the last 70 years. There is evidence for both sides of the argument, but while there, we need not and must not drop our guard.

  48. Hey people, before you make comments and generalizations about things which you know nothing about, go read some books! (Yeah, books still exist, amazing isn’t it!). Once you understand the complex history of the mideast and the role that all power nations play there (oh, you mean if we were not there someone else would be? Yep), then feel free to return with some real content and opinions.

  49. After shooting down a Ukrainian airliner departing from an Iranian airport and killing 57 Canadians and assorted others with ties to Canada it seems slightly hypocritical for Iran to complain about an F15 taking a peek at a commercial plane invading restricted airspace.

    Please note Iran only sent the black boxes to Paris last week and have withheld the rights to release any information about what actually happened to anyone but themselves. Quite odoriferous.

    Clearly the pilots panicked due to guilty conscience, straying into restricted airspace for a reason or lack of proper training.

    Do not understand anyone on this blog accusing their own country for anything regarding this incident. Or maybe they are trolls from another regime?

  50. “complain about an F15 taking a peek at a commercial plane invading restricted airspace”

    Restricted airspace????? Restricted by whom? Syria is a sovereign country. Any US presence there on the ground or in the air is illegal under international law, unless by invitation from the Syrian government.

    Who do you think you are? John Wayne? I know the US thinks it can do what it wants, where it wants, when it wants, but that doesn’t make it’s actions legal. It just proves might is right. I’m British btw.

  51. Clearly a US base is established under treaty otherwise it wouldn’t be there. Thus the restricted airspace is also legal.

    Kinda like the colony of Hong Kong but not yet ceded to dictators, eh?

  52. Nope the US base is not there by treaty. It was taken over by the US in 2016 without the permission of the Syrian government. It is there in contravention of international law.

    And it has no comparison with Hong Kong, which ceased being a colony some time ago. Though the US is trying it’s hardest to turn it back into one.

  53. @tony

    Hong Kong was originally a British Naval Garrison (think of the second world war where it was still a British stronghold before the Japanese invaded).

    But you still have a few problem with claiming lily white past – examples include Gibraltar (which the Spanish keep trying to regain control over) and the Malvinas (er Falkland Islands) that you fought a war over under Maggie.

    Be what may – the airspace is clearly identified and if some clowns are trying to start another engagement (like harassing tankers in the Gulf) they have no claim if someone comes up to find out what they are up to.

    I think other blogs from more knowledgeable people have explained that rather clearly.

    If you actually are British Maggie is not happy with you ;-(

  54. I’m no more happy with my country’s colonial past than you are. The difference between us is that you are unable to identify your country, the USA’s modern day colonialism, instead just displaying the same jingoism that British Empire apologists used to display.

    If I actually am British? Effing prick. This is a first class flyer blog that we both follow for great traveller advice and reports. It has briefly strayed into politics. Big deal. Honestly!!!! Grow up, man.

  55. Francis, people like you, who blithely support the rape and pillage of the world by the empire they support only deserve foul mouthed abuse and opprobrium.It’s the level that you are at. The millions of deaths in Syria caused by the empire you support are foul and disgusting on a biblical scale. Supporters like you are, by definition, foul and disgusting, and can only be described in language which is appropriate to what you are.

  56. Ben, you need to curate these message board comments so as to expunge the rantings of children, as here. This board needs to be at a higher level.

  57. Dear Tony, I responded to your latest rant but it’s under review as possibly not meeting Lucky’s comment guidelines. If not allowed, given the tone and insults in almost all of your comments that have been allowed, those guidelines are toothless. And I’m not going to go back through this entire thread but you might have been the one who injected politics into this thread or at least the one who took the mention of politics down a very ugly road. Cheers!

  58. Yes Raleigh, we need more posts euphemising genocide as ‘altruistic’, ‘humanitarian’ and ‘commercial’.

  59. No Francis, there were dozens of highly political posts before my first interjection. If you can’t be bothered doing a five minute speed read of this thread, you really have no place commenting on it’s contents.

  60. Thank you for correcting my grammatical error, Francis. And here’s my correction of yours:

    “And it’s ‘its’ , not ‘it’s’ ” You’re welcome.

  61. “But yours were the ugliest, my friend.”

    Ahhh! Calling out genocide is ugly, but euphemising it with blandishments about influence, regional presence, and so on, isn’t? Got it. What an upside-down place the world has become!

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