February 1, 2013

Video: Syrian Fighters Shooting at an Airliner? NYCAviation Investigates

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Written by: Phil Derner Jr.

In the vast expanses of the internet, a video emerged Friday that was titled “Syrian fighters firing on airline…Background info unknown – Jan 31st”. This headline of course jumps off the screen to us, and I was worried about what I’d see in the video, in terms of both violence and aviation misinformation.

(SFW: Video contains gunfire, but no gore or English profanity)

If embed error prevents watching, view the video HERE.

We were left with a ton of questions, and one cannot assume to trust the video headline. Was it really Syrian fighters? What is even in Syria? Was this even recently filmed as claimed? Was it really an airliner? (also see UPDATE at bottom of page)

In the 53-second video, we see a half dozen or so men firing sniper rifles, AK-47s and machine guns at what is a Boeing 747 on approach to land. By the end of the video, the aircraft seems to continue on regardless of the hundreds of bullets sent in its direction, but the men firing seem to feel victorious regardless. Politics aside, we here at NYCAviation do not like to see any aircraft take a beating, so let’s start to break it down and see what it really happening here.

  • The men seemed to be shooting “at” the plane, and not accounting for bullets’ falling trajectory, or the plane moving forward in the time it would take for the bullets to reach the range of the aircraft. Thus, the aircraft may not have received any damage from the hail of gunfire at all.
  • With no change in its approach it is further indicated that no, or at least little damage, was received by the aircraft.
  • The aircraft looks to be a Classic Boeing 747, with a blue cheatline, blue tail, a white top and light grayish belly.
  • The aircraft has no sizable titles on it, which means it is somewhat unlikely to be a operated by a regular airline. So just with the video research, this would likely be a cargo aircraft or an Air Force aircraft.
  • With these facts out of the way, we can start doing some research. Back to the internet, we began hunting for Classic 747s in that area of the world and beyond. Though likely candidates were found early, the search went through thousands of different airframes, with one particular “company” catching our eye.

    The Iranian Air Force is known to have at least four Classic 747s that are painted with a blue cheatline, blue tail, white top and blue bottom, with no printed titles. One of them, a 747-100 registered EP-AJT, was seen flying in Tehran, Iran just a few weeks ago on January 11th. Formerly registered 5-8101 seen here, the aircraft sports the exact scheme as in the video. It also has a bump just above the nose, which was intended to be used for mid-air refueling, which seems to be visible in the grainy video as well. This, and minor details on their three other 747s, leads us to believe it is this specific airframe. It is also no secret that Iran has been supplying various forms of aid to Syria during their time of civil unrest (to put it lightly).

    A closer shot of what is today EP-AJT, currently the oldest 747 flying on Earth. (Photo by Taha Ashoori – Iranian Spotters)

    If records are correct, this specific airframe is the 5th Boeing 747 ever built and was the first for TWA in 1969, and would currently be the oldest 747 still flying today. Again, politics aside, these guys are shooting at history. The airframe would later be converted to a freighter in 1975, and flew for an Iranian airline before the Iranian Air Force grabbed it up.

    OUR CONCLUSION: FSA fighters in Syria shot at an Iran Air Force 747 that happens to be a flying relic.

    The very same airframe in a past life with TWA, parked locally at JFK Airport in New York in August of 1970. (Photo by our friend George Hamlin)

    UPDATE 2:52pm EST: We have heard an unconfirmed report that Syrian rebels had shot on an Iran Air 747 (EP-ICD) about one month ago. This would be a separate incident.

    In addition, Reuters reports that the Iranian Air Force aircraft have been flying over Iraqi airspace under the guise of operating civilian flights, since Iraq does not allow Iran military aircraft into their airspace.

    About the Author

    Phil Derner Jr.
    Phil Derner founded NYCAviation in 2003. A lifetime aviation enthusiast that grew up across the water from La Guardia Airport, Phil has aviation experience as a Loadmaster, Operations Controller and Flight Dispatcher. He owns and operates NYCAviation and performs duties as an aviation expert through writing, consulting, public speaking and media appearances. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.


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