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What We Know About The Ukrainian Jet That Crashed In Iran

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What could have brought down a Boeing 737 jetliner headed from Iran to Ukraine? The plane crashed just after takeoff early this morning. Iranian officials say all 167 passengers and nine crew members were killed. There's no indication so far that this had anything to do with the conflict between the U.S. and Iran. Of course, Boeing is already dealing with a crisis over a different model of aircraft, the 737 Max. Julie Johnsson covers the aviation industry for Bloomberg News.

Hi there.

JULIE JOHNSSON: Hi.

SHAPIRO: So to ask you the question I began with, what could have brought down this plane? What does the evidence show right now?

JOHNSSON: Well, it's anybody's guess at this point. It's very early on. But there are some puzzling aspects to this crash. First of all, it was just a few minutes after takeoff. The plane was past the riskiest and most stressful point of its climb. And it's usually the point where, you know, pilots start to relax a little bit. The other interesting thing here is that Iranian state media got out within minutes of the crash and proclaimed that the plane came down due to mechanical difficulties. That may be the case at some point, but the pilots never communicated an emergency with the ground crews. And so it was just very, very odd to see state media jumping to that conclusion.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Usually, international and American investigators would collaborate with local officials to figure out what happens in a crash like this. If Iran doesn't give over the black box, if Iran doesn't fully cooperate with international investigators, is there any way to get a conclusive answer and figure out what actually happened here?

JOHNSSON: Yes. Every aspect of this is just very unusual, kind of off the charts, screwy, whatever you want to say. And what happens to the black boxes is one of the questions. It seems highly unlikely that Boeing and U.S. investigators with the NTSB and FAA will be allowed to the crash site. And that is usually the protocol for an accident like this. Ukraine, which is the airline whose plane crashed, has also asked for the black boxes. And I think the U.S. is working with Ukraine.

SHAPIRO: And just to be clear, this is a different type of aircraft from the 737 Max, which was involved in those two fatal crashes we've heard so much about.

JOHNSSON: Yes, that's absolutely right. This was the previous version of the 737. And it's one of the most, you know, commonly flown aircraft around the world. There are more than 7,000 of them out there. If you fly between large cities in the U.S., chances are you're on a 737 800. It's extremely - you know, has an extremely good safety record. I think they've only been nine fatal crashes. It's a terrible, terrible tragedy. And, you know, for Boeing, the people I've talked to are just stunned. I mean, this is one more crisis for a company that's had more than its share over the past year.

SHAPIRO: Julie Johnsson of Bloomberg News, thank you very much.

JOHNSSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.