U.S. officials have confirmed that a surface-to-air missile hit the Malaysia Airlines flight that went down over Ukraine on Thursday. As NPR notes, it’s rare for a civilian airliner to be shot down from the air even though it’s not unheard of.
Here are four other notable instances of passenger planes being shot down:
Feb. 21, 1973: Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114
Flight 114 was travelling from Tripoli to Cairo when it veered into the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, according to the Jerusalem Post. (At the time, Israel controlled that airspace, according to NPR.) Two Israeli fighter jets then surrounded the plane and signaled for it to follow them back to a base. Flight 114 apparently didn’t understand the commands and proceeded to turn in another direction.
Israelis fired warning shots, which Flight 114 ignored, according to the Jerusalem Post. The Israelis began firing on the plane, forcing it to make an emergency crash-landing that killed 108 of the 113 passengers, according to Mother Jones.
April 20, 1978: Korean Air Lines Flight 902
Flight 902 was travelling from Paris to Seoul when it diverted from its original path and began flying over the former Soviet Union. The plane made a forced landing, according to the New York Daily News, on a frozen lake after being fired on by Soviet aircraft. Two of the 97 passengers were killed when the Soviet planes began shooting at the commercial flight.
The Soviets refused to cooperate with the international community during the investigation and did not provide the data from the plane’s black box.
Sept. 1, 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007
Another incident involving a Korean Air Lines flight over the Soviet Union occurred five years later. Flight 007 was en route to Seoul from New York when it was shot down by Soviet fighter jets off the coast of Siberia after a navigational error. All of the 269 passengers and crew, 63 of whom were American citizens, were killed, according to USA Today.
Soviet officials refused to admit the plane was shot down at first. Then those officials said they had believed the plane was on a secret spy mission, adding Russian soldiers had fired warning shots that the plane’s pilot ignored.
In the aftermath of the crash, the Flight 007 Victims’ Association successfully lobbied Congress and the airline industry to increase compensation and lower the burden of proof for airline misconduct leading to such a disaster, according to The New York Times.
July 3, 1988: Iran Air Flight 655
The most recent tragedy of this kind involving a commercial plane happened near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, in which the U.S. was backing Iraq. The Vincennes, a U.S. Navy ship, was engaged in battle with several smaller Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf when Flight 655 flew overhead.
Somehow the Americans mistook the massive airbus for an F-14 fighter jet and shot two missiles at the commercial flight, according to the Washington Post. All 290 passengers and crew on board were killed.
While the incident spurred Iran to end the war soon after, the impact the incident had on the country’s relations with the U.S. is still felt to this day. Iran and the U.S. are still icy with each other at best.
“The shoot-down of Iran Air flight 655 was an accident, but that is not how it was seen in Tehran,” former CIA analyst and current Brookings scholar Kenneth Pollack wrote in his 2004 history of U.S.-Iran enmity, “The Persian Puzzle,” according to the Washington Post. “The Iranian government assumed that the attack had been purposeful. … Tehran convinced itself that Washington was trying to signal that the United States had decided to openly enter the war on Iraq’s side.”
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