List of airliner shootdown incidents

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In the history of commercial aviation, there have been many airliner shootdown incidents which have been caused intentionally or by accident. This is a chronologically ordered list meant to document instances where airliners have been brought down by gunfire or missile attacks, including wartime incidents, rather than terrorist bombings or sabotage.


Kweilin Incident

Believed to be the first commercial passenger plane destroyed by hostile forces.[1] On August 24, 1938 - during the Second Sino-Japanese War - a DC-2 (the Kweilin), jointly operated by China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) and Pan American, carrying 18 passengers and crew, was forced down by Japanese aircraft just north of Hong Kong in Chinese territory. 15 people died when the Kweilin, which made an emergency water landing to avoid the attack, was strafed by the Japanese and sunk in a river. The American pilot Hugh L. Woods and two others survived. Three prominent Chinese bankers, Hu Yun, Singloh Hsu, and Wang Yumei, were among the dead. It was later believed to be an assassination attempt on Chinese President Sun Yat-sen's only son, Sun Fo, who was thought to be aboard the flight but was not. The plane was refurbished, renamed The Chungking, and was later involved in a 1940 shootdown incident.


Kaleva OH-ALL

Junkers Ju 52-3/mge "Kaleva" OH-ALL was a civilian transport and passenger plane operated by the Finnish carrier Aero O/Y, shot down by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3 bombers on June 14, 1940, while en route from Tallinn, Estonia, to Helsinki, Finland.[2] This occurred during the Interim Peace between Finland and the Soviet Union, three months after the end of the Winter War, and a year before the Continuation War began. A few minutes after taking off in Tallinn, Kaleva was intercepted by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3T torpedo bombers. The bombers opened fire with their machine guns and badly damaged Kaleva, causing it to ditch in water a few kilometers northeast of Keri lighthouse. All 7 passengers and 2 crew members on board died.[3]

The Chungking

On October 29, 1940, a DC-2 named the Chungking, operated by CNAC, was destroyed by Japanese fighters at Changyi Airfield, Yunnan, China, as it landed.[4] Nine people died including the American pilot Walter "Foxie" Kent and Chinese architect Chang-Kan Chien. The plane caught fire and would never fly again. The plane was formerly the Kweilin which had been shot down in 1938 and had been refurbished.


PK-AFV, also known as Pelikaan, was a Douglas DC-3 (Dakota) airliner operated by KNILM from 1937 to 1942. On March 3, 1942, while on a flight from Bandung, Netherlands East Indies, to Broome, Australia, the plane was attacked by three Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter planes; PK-AFV crash-landed on a beach near Broome. Four passengers died. Among its cargo were diamonds worth at the time an estimated £150,000–300,000 (in 2018 an approximate £7–13 million), and the vast majority of these were lost or stolen following the crash.[5][6]

BOAC Flight 777

BOAC Flight 777, a scheduled British Overseas Airways Corporation civilian airline flight of a Douglas DC-3 on 1 June 1943 from Lisbon's Portela Airport in neutral Portugal, to Whitchurch near Bristol, England, was attacked by eight German Junkers Ju 88 fighter bombers and crashed into the Bay of Biscay, resulting in the deaths of all aboard including the English actor Leslie Howard.[7]


Cathay Pacific VR-HEU

VR-HEU, a four-engined propeller-driven Douglas DC-4 airliner operated by Cathay Pacific Airways,[8] en route from Bangkok to Hong Kong on July 23, 1954, was shot down by People's Liberation Army Air Force Lavochkin La-7 fighters off the coast of Hainan Island; ten on board died.[9][10][11]

El Al Flight 402

El Al Flight 402, a Lockheed L-149 Constellation pressurized four-engine propliner, registered 4X-AKC, was an international passenger flight from Vienna, Austria, to Tel Aviv, Israel, via Istanbul, Turkey, on July 27, 1955. The aircraft strayed into Bulgarian airspace, refused to land, and was shot down by two Bulgarian MiG-15 jet fighters several kilometers away from the Greece border near Petrich, Bulgaria. All seven crew and fifty-one passengers on board the airliner died.[12][13]


Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114

Libyan Airlines Flight 114 was a regularly scheduled flight from Tripoli, Libya, via Benghazi to Cairo. At 10:30 on February 21, 1973, the Boeing 727 left Tripoli, but became lost with a combination of bad weather and equipment failure over northern Egypt around 13:44 (local). It entered Israeli-controlled airspace over the Sinai Peninsula, was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 Phantom II fighters, refused to land, and was shot down. Of the 113 people on board, 5 survived, including the co-pilot.[14][15]

Korean Air Lines Flight 902

Korean Air Lines Flight 902 (KAL902, KE902) was a civilian Boeing 707 airliner shot down by Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 fighters on April 20, 1978, near Murmansk, Russia, after it violated Soviet airspace and failed to respond to Soviet interceptors. Two passengers died in the incident. 107 passengers and crew survived after the plane made an emergency landing on a frozen lake.[16]

Air Rhodesia Flight 825

Air Rhodesia Flight 825, was a scheduled flight between Kariba and Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), that was shot down on September 3, 1978, by Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) guerrillas using a Strela 2 missile. Eighteen of the fifty-six passengers of the Vickers Viscount survived the crash, but ten of the survivors were killed by the guerrillas at the crash site.

Air Rhodesia Flight 827

Air Rhodesia Flight 827 was a scheduled flight between Kariba and Salisbury that was shot down on February 12, 1979, by ZIPRA guerrillas using a Strela 2 missile in similar circumstances to Flight RH825 five months earlier. None of the fifty-nine passengers or crew of the Vickers Viscount survived.[17]


Linhas Aéreas de Angola Yakolev Yak-40

On 8 February 1980 Linhas Aéreas de Angola airliner registered D2-TYC, a Yakovlev Yak-40, was shot down near Matala, Angola with the loss of all on board (4 crew and 15 passengers). ICAO report a sudden situation took place in response to actions by a foreign aircraft and accidentally the Yak-40 was hit and crashed. [18]

Korean Air Lines Flight 007

Korean Air Lines Flight 007, also known as KAL 007 or KE007, was a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 civilian airliner shot down by a Soviet Su-15TM fighter on September 1, 1983, near Moneron Island just west of Sakhalin island. 269 passengers and crew, including US congressman Larry McDonald, were aboard KAL 007; there were no survivors. An official investigation concluded that the course deviation was likely caused by pilot error in configuring their air navigation system.[19]

Polar 3

On February 24, 1985, the Polar 3, a Dornier Do 228 research airplane of the Alfred Wegener Institute, was shot down by guerrillas of the Polisario Front over West Sahara. All three crew members died. Polar 3 was on its way back from Antarctica and had taken off in Dakar, Senegal, to reach Arrecife, Canary Islands.[20]

Zimex Aviation Lockheed L-100, Angola

On October 14, 1987, a Lockheed L-100 Hercules registered HB-ILF, owned by the Swiss company Zimex Aviation and operated on behalf of the ICRC was shot down about four minutes after departing at Cuito airport, Angola. It was hit by an unknown projectile fired by unknown combatants during the Angolan Civil War. Four crew members and two passengers died. On the ground, two persons died and one was severely injured.[21][22]

Air Malawi 7Q-YMB

On November 6, 1987, an Air Malawi Shorts Skyvan 7Q-YMB was shot down while on a domestic flight from Blantyre, Malawi to Lilongwe. The flight plan took it over Mozambique where the Mozambican Civil War was in progress. The aircraft was shot down near the Mozambican town of Ulongwe. The eight passengers and two crew on board died.[23]

Iran Air Flight 655

A missile departs the forward launcher of Vincennes during a 1987 exercise. The forward launcher was also used in the downing of Iran Air 655.

Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was a commercial flight operated by Iran Air that flew from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai, UAE. On July 3, 1988, towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the aircraft flying IR655 was shot down by the U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes when it fired a RIM-66 Standard surface-to-air missile. The airplane was destroyed between Bandar Abbas and Dubai; all 290 passengers and crew died. USS Vincennes was in Iranian waters at the time of the attack, and IR655, an Airbus A300 on an ascending flight path, was allegedly misidentified as a descending Iranian F-14.[24]

T&G Aviation DC-7

On December 8, 1988 a Douglas DC-7 chartered by the US Agency for International Development was shot down over Western Sahara by the Polisario Front, resulting in 5 deaths. Leaders of the movement said the plane was mistaken for a Moroccan Lockheed C-130. The aircraft was to be used to spray insecticide to control a locust outbreak.[25]


1993 Transair Georgian Airline shootdowns

In September 1993, three airliners belonging to Transair Georgia were shot down by missiles and gunfire in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, Georgia. The first, a Tupolev Tu-134, was shot down on September 21, 1993 by a missile during landing approach. The second plane, a Tupolev Tu-154, was shot down a day later also during approach. A third one was shelled and destroyed on the ground, while passengers were boarding.[26][27][28]

Rwandan presidential airliner

The Dassault Falcon 50 airplane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda, on 6 April 1994. Both presidents died. This double assassination was the catalyst for the Rwandan Genocide and the First Congo War. Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with most theories proposing as suspects either the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) or government-aligned Hutu Power extremists opposed to negotiation with the RPF.

Lionair Flight 602

Lionair Flight 602, operated by an Antonov An-24RV, crashed into the sea off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka on September 29, 1998. The aircraft departed Jaffna-Palaly Air Force Base on a flight to Colombo and disappeared from radar screens just after the pilot had reported depressurization. Initial reports indicated that the plane had been shot down by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels. All seven crew and forty-eight passengers died.[29]


2001 Siberia Airlines Flight 1812

On 4 October 2001, Siberian Airlines Flight 1812, a Tupolev Tu-154, crashed over the Black Sea on route from Tel Aviv, Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia. Although the immediate suspicion was of a terrorist attack, American sources proved that the plane was hit by a S-200 surface-to-air missile, fired from the Crimea peninsula during a Ukrainian military exercise, and this was confirmed by the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee. All on board (66 passengers and 12 crew) died. The President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma and several high commanders of the military expressed their condolences to the relatives of the victims. The Ukrainian Government paid out $200,000 in compensation to the families of every passenger and crew who died when the plane crashed. They paid out a total of $15 million in compensation for the accident.[30]

2003 Baghdad DHL attempted shootdown incident

On November 22, 2003, shortly after takeoff from Baghdad, Iraq, an Airbus A300 cargo plane owned by European Air Transport (a subsidiary of the German express-mail service DHL) was struck on the left wing tip by a surface-to-air missile. Severe wing damage resulted in a fire and complete loss of hydraulic flight control systems.[31] The pilots used differential engine thrust to fly the plane back to Baghdad, and were able to land without any injuries or major aircraft damage.[32]

2007 Balad aircraft crash

On January 9, 2007, an Antonov An-26 crashed while attempting a landing at Balad Air Base in Iraq.[33] Although poor weather is blamed by officials, witnesses claim they saw the plane being shot down,[34] and the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility. Thirty-four of the thirty-five civilian passengers on board died.[34]

2007 Mogadishu TransAVIAexport Airlines Il-76 crash

On March 23, 2007, a TransAVIAexport Airlines Ilyushin Il-76 airplane crashed in outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, during the 2007 Battle of Mogadishu. Witnesses, including a Shabelle reporter, claim they saw the plane shot down, and Belarus has initiated an anti-terrorist investigation, but Somalia insists the crash was accidental.[35] All eleven Belarusian civilians on board died.[36]


2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777-200ER, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was hit by a surface-to-air missile system near Donetsk, Ukraine. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were reported dead, among which 80 children and several leading scientists and public activists on AIDS, that travelled to take part in international scientific conference on AIDS in Australia.

Near hits

2002 Arkia Israel Airlines Flight 582 (shootdown attempt in Mombasa, Kenya)

On November 28, 2002, two shoulder-launched Strela 2 (SA-7) surface-to-air heat-seeking missiles were fired at a chartered Boeing 757-300 airliner owned by Israel-based Arkia Airlines as it took off from Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Kenya. Arkia had a regular weekly charter service flying tourists between Tel Aviv and Mombasa. Kenyan police discovered a Strela missile launcher and two missile casings in the Changamwe area of Mombasa, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the airport. The missiles missed the airliner and the pilots decided to continue to Israel. The airliner landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv about five hours later, escorted by Israeli F-15 fighter jets. Following this shootdown attempt and a simultaneous attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, known together as the 2002 Mombasa attacks, all Israeli flights from Israel to Kenya were cancelled indefinitely.

See also


  1. Gregory Crouch (2012). "Chapter 13: The Kweilin Incident". China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom during the Golden Age of Flight. Bantam Books. pp. 172–189.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Virtualpilots - Tapauskaleva. Retrieved January 1, 2007.
  3. *Petrov, Pavel (2008). Punalipuline Balti Laevastik ja Eesti 1939-1941 (in Estonian and translated from Russian). Tänapäev. ISBN 978-9985-62-631-3. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Gregory Crouch (2012). "Chapter 17: Ventricular Tachycardia,". China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom during the Golden Age of Flight. Bantam Books. pp. 240–242.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Wills, Juliet; Van Velzen, Marianne (2006), The Diamond Dakota mystery, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-74114-745-2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Tyler, William H (1987), Flight of Diamonds : the story of Broome's war and the Carnot Bay diamonds, Hesperian Press, ISBN 978-0-85905-105-7<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Rosevink, Ben and Lt Col Herbert Hintze. "Flight 777." FlyPast, Issue No. 120, July 1991.
  8. ASN Aircraft accident Douglas C-54A-10-DC VR-HEU Hainan Island - Aviation Safety Network
  9. Accident details - VR-HEU - Plane Crash Info
  10. VR-HEU Account by passenger: Valerie Parish - Major Commercial Airline Disasters
  11. VR-HEU - The Life & Times of James Harper
  12. "ASN record".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Staff writer (August 8, 1955). "Through the Curtain". Time. Retrieved March 10, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. List of 727 incidents.
  15. Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace. Phelps, John Maj. Military Law Review. Vol 107 Winter 1985 Page 288
  16. [1]
  17. "Description of Air Rhodesia Flight RH827". Retrieved 2008-02-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. ICAO Report No. 12/80
  19. Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-07-18.
  20. Aviation safety network - Report on Polar 3. Retrieved April 18, 2009.
  22. Accident report in French:
  23. "ASN Aircraft accident Shorts SC.7 Skyvan 3-100 7Q-YMB Ulongue". Retrieved 2011-10-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Military Blunders – Iran Air Shot Down – 3 July 1988
  25. Accident description for N284 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 November 2013.
  26. Criminal Occurrence description for September 21 shootdown at the Aviation Safety Network
  27. Criminal Occurrence description for September 22 shootdown at the Aviation Safety Network
  28. Criminal Occurrence description for September 23 fire at the Aviation Safety Network
  29. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved November 23, 2006.
  30. Wines, Michael (October 14, 2001). "After 9 Days, Ukraine Says Its Missile Hit A Russian Jet". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Great escape
  32. "Air Crash Investigators"
  33. 32 Killed in Cargo Plane Crash in Iraq – – Obtained 28 January 2007.
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Moldovan plane that crashed in Iraq was downed – eyewitness". Russian News and Information Agency Novosti. Retrieved 22 January 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. 'Somali plane was shot down' - - Obtained March 25, 2007.[dead link]
  36. "Missile attack on plane kills 11 Belarusian". The Malaysia Sun. IANS. 24 March 2007. Archived from the original on 28 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>