KIEV: The Ukrainian airliner that crashed outside Tehran on Wednesday (Jan 8) killing over 170 people was a Boeing 737 built in 2016 and checked only two days before the accident, the company said.
"The plane was manufactured in 2016, it was received by the airline directly from the (Boeing) factory. The plane underwent its last planned technical maintenance on Jan 6, 2020," Ukraine International Airlines said in a statement.
The plane that crashed was a three-year-old Boeing 737-800NG en route to Kiev, air tracking service FlightRadar24 said.
The 737-800 is one of the world’s most-flown models with a good safety record and does not have the software feature implicated in crashes of the 737 MAX. Boeing grounded its 737 MAX fleet in March after two crashes that killed 346 people.
The 737-800's twin engines are made by CFM International, a US-French venture co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran.
The plane took off from Tehran airport at 6.10am and disappeared from radars just a few minutes later, crashing in Tehran province.
There were no survivors among the crew and passengers, who were mostly Iranian and Canadian nationals, according to Ukraine's foreign ministry.
Ukraine International Airlines, the country's biggest airline and privately owned, said it had "decided to suspend its flights to Tehran starting today" and until further notice.
The airline's representatives insisted the aircraft was fully functional under experienced pilots trained for emergencies at what he said was the "difficult" Tehran airport.
"The plane was in working order," said UIA president Yevgeniy Dykhne.
"It was one of our best planes with a wonderful crew," Dykhne told a briefing in Kiev, choking back tears.
He declined to comment on speculation linking the crash to Iran's missile strike on US forces in Iraq on Wednesday morning, advising reliance on official sources for information rather than social networks.
The plane climbed to 2,400m when it disappeared from the radars, and "(chances) of a crew error are minimal, we simply are not considering them", said vice president Igor Sosnovsky.
"Considering their experience, it's difficult to say that there was something wrong with the crew," he said.
The airline was notifying passengers' families and working with aviation authorities "to do everything possible to find the reasons for the aviation accident".
Preliminary statements by Iranian and Ukrainian authorities suggested a malfunction. Iran's English-language broadcaster Press TV cited the Imam Khomeini International Airport spokesman as saying the crash was caused by "technical difficulties".
A statement posted on the website of the Ukrainian embassy saying the crash was caused by an engine malfunction and ruling out an act of terror was later redacted, saying all information will be provided later by an official commission.
Asked to say if the engine could have caught fire, airline president Dykhne said he will not engage in "hypotheticals" and will only give official information.
Ukraine's president ordered an investigation into the crash and a sweeping check of "all civilian aircraft" in the country.