Iran tampered with plane electronics after 2013 crash, report says

By Madeline Connolly, CNN

Iran tampered with victims’ electronics devices in the aftermath of the downing of a Boeing 777 in December 2012 that brought down a passenger jet with 290 people on board, a report by an international commission that investigated the issue says.

CNN affiliate NHK received a copy of the report from a source outside Japan, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The report was the product of the Montreal-based Commission for Assistance to a New Aviation Era (CANA), which was set up by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2013.

According to the report, Iran replaced the digital recorders with wooden models that made it impossible for the data recorder to be re-activated.

A video screenshot showing a cockpit hearing a “noise” in the moments before the aircraft’s crash on December 31, 2012. In the video, the controller (identified as the control center) is searching for the instruments below the cockpit window (bottom right) with a high-speed camera. (Image sourced from IranAir YouTube video, December 31, 2012)

CNN has reached out to the Iranian Embassy in Paris to confirm the authenticity of the report, which cites unnamed sources with knowledge of the incident. A spokesperson said he would respond to CNN’s questions once he had time to review the document.

The report cites two separate unnamed sources in government for the data recorder switching off following the incident, which occurred while the airliner was on approach to Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport.

The IranAir Airbus A300 carrying 290 people flew the wrong way and disappeared into the frigid waters of the Persian Gulf on December 28, 2012, and the report says it was the first time the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) had been affected in such a way.

The CFM International CFM56-7B jetliner had left Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport for Tehran, where it was to connect with a flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Fourteen seconds before the plane hit the water, the two-pilot cockpit conversation was picked up by its flight recorder.

In it, an experienced pilot responded to the sound of a loud rumbling inside the cockpit.

“Speak up. This isn’t normal,” he said.

While the report doesn’t say whether the audio was destroyed, CNN’s source says the report says that “two of the four flight recorder fuses had been removed or had been cut, making the onboard recording impossible to retrieve.”

“Because it is incapable of operating, it is probably destroyed,” the source said.

CNN has reached out to the co-pilot of the crashed plane for comment.

However, the co-pilot said on Twitter that he has no knowledge of the incident.

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