The deadliest cases of passenger planes shot down

CBC News Last Updated: July 17, 2014

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine could well be the latest example of a passenger airliner shot down by a missile or military jet. By some counts, there have been at least 20 such incidents since the 1940s.

In this case, the Boeing 777, with 295 people onboard, was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. It came down in Ukraine’s troubled Donetsk province, approximately 40 kilometres from the border with Russia.


 

The five deadliest cases

Iran Air Flight 655

Graphic: Iran Air Flight 655
DATE
July 3, 1988
NAME
Iran Air Flight 655
AIRCRAFT
Airbus A300B2-203
ROUTE
Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas, Iran
LOCATION
over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf
SHOOTER
U.S. Navy cruiser USS Vincennes fired two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles
ALTITUDE
climbing after takeoff towards 4,300 m
DEATHS
290

The U.S. claimed the Vincennes crew, while in Iran's territorial waters, mistook the Airbus for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter jet that was going to attack their ship. The incident occurred near the end of the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war in which the U.S. was supporting Iraq. The U.S. paid $61.8 million in compensation.

Korean Air Lines Flight 007

Graphic: Korean Air Lines Flight 007
DATE
Sept. 1, 1983
NAME
Korean Air Lines Flight 007
AIRCRAFT
Boeing 747-230B
ROUTE
New York to Seoul via Anchorage
LOCATION
west of Sakhalin Island, USSR
SHOOTER
Soviet military Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor jet
ALTITUDE
11,000 m
DEATHS
269

KAL 007 strayed into prohibited Soviet airspace. The Soviet government first said it didn't know anything about what happened, then claimed the plane was on a spy mission. The Soviets said they thought the KAL flight was an RC-135 reconnaissance plane.

Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114

Graphic: Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114
DATE
Feb. 21, 1973
NAME
Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114
AIRCRAFT
Boeing 727–224
ROUTE
Tripoli to Cairo via Benghazi
LOCATION
Sinai Peninsula
SHOOTER
two Israeli air force F-4 Phantom II jets
ALTITUDE
6,100 m
DEATHS
108 (five people, including the co-pilot survived)

Weather conditions and equipment failure resulted in the flight continuing past Cairo. Once over Israeli-occupied Sinai the Boeing was intercepted by the Israeli fighters, which tried to get it to land. The Boeing pilot thought he was over Egypt and the interceptors Egyptian, the inflight recordings later revealed. He was trying to return to Cairo when the Israeli pilots fired 20 mm rounds, apparently trying to cripple the Boeing, not destroy it. The Boeing sustained severe damage and exploded while the pilot attempted a belly landing in the desert.

Siber Airlines Flight 1812

Graphic: Siber Airlines Flight 1812
DATE
Oct. 4, 2001
NAME
Siber Airlines Flight 1812
AIRCRAFT
Tupolev Tu-154
ROUTE
Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk, Russia
LOCATION
Black Sea
SHOOTER
Ukraine defence forces 5V28 ground-to-air missile.
ALTITUDE
11,000 m
DEATHS
78

Ukraine defence forces were conducting a military exercise in Crimea and fired a 5V28 ground-to-air missile, apparently at a drone. It missed and homed in on the Tupolev Tu-154 passenger plane en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk, Russia. Most of the passengers had been Soviet immigrants to Israel.

El Al Flight 402

Graphic: El Al Flight 402
DATE
July 27, 1955
NAME
El Al Flight 402
AIRCRAFT
Lockheed L-049 Constellation
ROUTE
London to Tel Aviv via Paris, Vienna and Istanbul
LOCATION
Bulgaria
SHOOTER
two Bulgarian air force MiG-15 jets
ALTITUDE
5,500 m
DEATHS
58

Originating in London and heading to Tel Aviv via Paris, Vienna and Istanbul, the Israeli flight strayed into Bulgarian airspace while it was aiming for Istanbul and was intercepted by two Bulgarian air force MiGs.

Shortly before the Lockheed L-049 Constellation would have crossed into Greek airspace, Bulgaria's deputy commander-in-chief of air defence ordered the MiG pilots to shoot it down. Bulgaria eventually apologized.