With the possibly accidental shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by pro-Russia militants in Ukraine, the entire world has looked on with horror. But shooting down passenger planes, while uncommon, is not unprecedented. The United States itself was once responsible for shooting down a civilian airliner with 290 people on board — including 66 children.
The tragedy took place 26 years ago and is not often discussed in the United States or taught in many American schools. But the shootdown of an Iranian Airbus A300 over the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988 is likely to receive renewed attention over the coming days as investigators and the public struggle to understand how a routine commercial flight like Malaysia Airlines MH17 could be coldly blasted from the sky, killing almost 300 people with one shot.
Iran Air Flight IR655 flew a routine commercial route starting in Tehran, Iran's capital, with a stopover in Bandar Abbas, a southern Iranian city of more than 400,000 on the northeastern coast of the Persian Gulf. Flight 655 was on what should have been a 28-minute flight to its final destination in Dubai, the second-largest city in the United Arab Emirates, when disaster struck.