A Mahan Air Airbus A310-300 heading from Tehran (Iran) to Beirut (Lebanon) was forced to perform an abrupt maneuver to avoid two fighter jets. Information from The Aviation Herald indicates that the aircraft had to climb at least 600 feet rapidly, while video from within the cabin shows the chaos and fear experienced by passengers.
Details of the A310 incident
The Aviation Herald indicates that the incident happened aboard Mahan Air flight W51152 – performed by an Airbus A310. The aircraft is registered as EP-MNF and was heading from Tehran Imam Khomeini (Iran) to Beirut (Lebanon).
While flying west at FL340, evasive maneuvers had to be taken 160nm east of Beirut over Syrian Airspace. This area was reportedly near the triangle of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq – a point where all three countries’ borders meet.
According to the Iranian TV report via the New York Times, the fighter jets came within a distance of 100 meters (328 feet) of the Airbus A310. The same report indicates that the crew abruptly took the aircraft to a lower altitude to avoid a collision with the jets.
Reporting from the Aviation Herald conflicts with the claim that altitude was lowered. Instead, it indicates that the aircraft abruptly climbed at least 600 feet within two minutes. This is backed up by data from FlightRadar24.com.
Medical assistance needed
Following the sharp climb, the A310 returned to FL340 and requested medical assistance upon arrival in Beirut. Data from FlightRadar24.com indicate the aircraft achieved a safe landing at 19:50 local time.
Upon landing, several passengers needed medical assistance. The Red Cross of Lebanon reported that no passengers needed to be taken to the hospital, although a number were treated for shock.
Video taken by a passenger onboard and posted to Twitter show the many in the cabin screaming and panicking:
Violent interception of Iranian Mahan Air passanger airplane over Syria by US or Israeli F-15. Pilot was forced to drop altitude in order to avoid collision. pic.twitter.com/tBL7px3vgA
— Aldin 🇧🇦 (@aldin_ww) July 23, 2020
Where was the fighter jet from?
Sources initially indicated that these jets were either American or Israeli. However, a US official later confirmed that an American fighter jet had passed by the Iranian aircraft – but at a safe distance.
According to The Times of Israel, US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, says that a US F-15 fighter jet “conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the airliner this evening.” Captain Urban goes on to say:
“The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at al-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.”
The reaction by Iranian officials
According to Turkish media outlet Andalou Agency, Iranian activist and researcher Hamidreza Gholamzadeh calls the fighter jet maneuver “an unacceptable violation of law, sovereignty of Syria and humanity.”
Sources within the Iranian government said Iran would “respond strongly” to the “provocation.”