Friday FOIA Fun: Antonov AN-26

Today, another bit of Friday FOIA Fun – this time, a leftover from Sunshine Week, delayed while I tried to find the best way to present the contents.

As regular readers will recall, I’ve been doing a mostly-regular weekly post on the federal Freedom of Information Act. In past weeks, I’ve shown some of the range of the Act – in particular, how you can use it to get “records” from the government that aren’t just written works. A few weeks ago, I posted an interactive training CD-ROM. Today, some very interesting photographs…

In January 2007, a Turkish-registered Antonov AN-26 crashed outside Balad Air Force Base in northern Iraq. United States Air Force personnel assisted at the crash site. No report on the incident has ever been released, and a variety of causes – including politics – have conspired to surround the incident with mystery and controversy.

These are pictures of the crash site – perhaps the first such photos to be made public in the fifteen months since the crash.

The original intent in getting these images was twofold – demonstrate the flexibility of what constitutes “records” under the Freedom of Information Act, and let people try and decide for themselves whether the Antonov has been shot down or not – crash analysis by crowdsourcing, if you will. The latter, alas, will probably not be possible, as the wreckage was, shall we say, not in good shape:

Scattered across a farm field, over an estimated square mile, the plane and its contents were torn to pieces and consumed by flames. The largest piece of wreckage was the very tail of the plane, where the airline logo was still faintly visible:

Pieces were scattered far and wide – which suggests to me that the plane might have broken up in the air… but I’m no crash investigator.

The tail markings, just visible in a photo above, help identify the plane as belonging to Arientur-M, but if you needed further confirmation, the pilot’s manual was found:

The engines were found more-or-less intact, hundreds of feet apart. Here’s one of them, somewhat the worse for wear:

In addition to taking photos of the wreckage, USAF personnel also plotted out the debris using GPS units; here one marks the location of part of a propeller blade:

This was a considerable task, given the large amount of wreckage, and how widely spread-out it was:

It wasn’t just airplane parts whose locations were plotted; some other items were located by GPS, as well:

We’ll take a closer look at the Antonov’s cargo on Monday, and try to answer some questions about what it was or was not doing when it crashed. Unfortunately, I suspect the end result is going to be the creation of more questions than answers… but such is life, I’m afraid.

After a variety of delays, almost a gigabyte of photos of the crash scene were released by the folks at Balad, burnt on a DVD-ROM. Certain unspecified photos were withheld because of their “sensitivity”; I presume they have to do with the thirty-four souls on board who perished in the crash. It’s worth pointing out that there are no signs of any sort of body-recovery efforts in any of the photos released to me; I believe that effort may have been completed by the time the personnel in question arrived on the scene. If the EXIF data in the photos is correct, they were taken between roughly 3:30pm and 4:30pm on January 9th (with a pair of Nikon D2x’s and a Canon A620, if you’re curious.), which is nominally just a few hours after the crash. A few pieces of wreckage were still burning when these photos were taken.

Published in: General, History, Security | on March 28th, 2008| 39 Comments »

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  1. On 4/4/2008 at 11:23 am David Said:

    Hello. I have a question towards the author of this article.Do you have the whole gigabyte of photos of the crash scene which was released as you said ? And if you have, please put all the photos here! This is very interesting theme to analyse and many thanks to you for this information and the photos,good work

  2. On 4/6/2008 at 1:54 am Christian Said:

    What is whe official cause of the Antonov-26 plane crash?

  3. On 4/6/2008 at 12:50 pm Nemo Said:

    David: I do have the whole gigabyte of photos, but don’t have the capability – or time – to put them all online, at least at the moment.

    Christian: As far as I know, there has never been an “official” cause determined, only a “preliminary” finding of pilot error due to fog. If you read the Wikipedia page about the crash, you’ll see that no real investigation has ever been carried out, which is fairly suspicious…

  4. On 4/7/2008 at 9:25 am David Said:

    Thanks for answer.I appreciate you work.But please send please to my email a few photos that impressed you the most! my email [deleted to prevent spam]! have a nice day

  5. On 4/7/2008 at 9:55 am Christian Said:

    But I have some other information about the crash! I was in Balad AB a few weeks after the crash and I talked with many people there, who saw the accident by their own eyes! There were many witness. They told me and the other turkish officials, that the aircraft was hit by a missile,and this missile was from the Balad Air Base Hospital,where is installed the air-defense system. The airplane flew over the Hospital below the admissible altitude and was shoot down,because this system works automatically. As american soldiers said,the distance from the Hospital till the plane’s crash site is exactly 500 yards! The crash happened at 10.03 AM local time.This crash scared all the people in the Hospital and who was near it was horrible

  6. On 4/7/2008 at 12:41 pm Russel Said:

    The course of investigation looks suspicious too. There were admissed to the crash site neither representants of aviation authorities of the aircraft/airline registartion country, nor airline or aircraft manufacturer representants. And the people who was in Balad just few days after the crash said, that all the wreckages have been already put away and the crash site have been cleaned up. There was something to hide, wasn’t there?
    The photos are realy unique. Many thanks to publisher. Is there any possibility to get mentioned above DVD? I’m in touch with some of crewmember’s families. They will be realy gratefull for it. Please, if you’ll find possibility contact me on [edited to avoid spam].

  7. On 4/7/2008 at 1:39 pm Nemo Said:

    David – I tried to email you a few photos, but your email address doesn’t seem to work. Do you have another one I can try?

    As this seems to be generating a lot of interest around the world, and a number of people have inquired about getting copies of the DVD, here’s what I’ve been telling everyone – you basically have two options:

    You can request a copy of the DVD from the USAF, under the Freedom of Information Act. This is, of course, how I got it in the first place. This option is free, but will take a while – expect two to four months, maybe longer.

    If you can’t wait that long – or don’t want to go that route for whatever reason – I will, reluctantly, make copies of the DVD and mail them to anyone willing to make a donation to cover costs. If you’re in Russia, for example, postage alone is going to be between 8 and 11 USD. A DVD, jewel case, and padded mailer cost me about 3 USD…

    There’s a PayPal button on the front of the site, through which you can send money to my webhost; add a note that it’s for the “Balad DVD”, and be sure to include your mailing address. If you’d like to discuss other ways of donating, you can contact me through this link.

  8. On 4/7/2008 at 3:09 pm David Said:

    Yes,of course I do have another email [edited to thwart spammers] ! many thanks for your responsiveness!

  9. On 4/9/2008 at 10:42 am Nicklass Said:

    I consider that it is necessary to put some of the crash photos on the wikipedia page about the Antonov-26 balad air crash! be so kind

  10. On 4/9/2008 at 2:19 pm Nemo Said:

    Nicklass, anyone who wants to, is more than welcome to put any of these images on the Wikipedia page. They’re all public-domain, as the work of the U.S. government.

  11. On 4/10/2008 at 6:21 am Nicklass Said:

    I have put some photos on wikipedia page, you can look.I want to put a photo of crash site general view, do you have ? and if possible the photo of the wreckage,it will be much better for people understanding

  12. On 4/22/2008 at 3:28 am pilot Said:

    Hello , the Antonov-26 aircraft was shot down during the second approach by the missile,there were 2 survivors after the crash one turkish worker and the other reportedly one of the crew of aircraft,but later was reported that he died after a few hours after he was transported to the Hospital.It was very strange the behaviour of the American officials after the crash,they cleaned the crash site very quickly,maybe they tried to cover up their own fault?? the Balad AB was then closed for 3 days after the crash! This air crash is necessary to be completely and closely investigated. many thaks to the author of this article you are a brave man,because until now you are the only man who had written about this crash and showed the pictures! I consider that the American officials must be punished for this crash,it’s their fault fo sure!

  13. On 4/24/2008 at 5:24 am Balad AB worker Said:

    I have been working in Balad Air base when this crash happened, and I can say for sure that the plane was shot down!! It’s true many people there saw that!Americans need to pay for this,they killed 34 persons,and must be punished and take all responsobility on themselfs,this people worked for them,very dissapointing for America

  14. On 5/17/2008 at 1:39 am aircraft Said:

    Thank you for this article,very interesting,put in some more photos of the crash site!!

  15. On 3/22/2009 at 9:37 pm VT1 Said:

    i was the air traffic controller at Balad that day.. and the last person to communicate with the pilot. that was a horrible day.

  16. On 3/22/2009 at 10:07 pm VT1 Said:

    wow.. the stupidity of your comments just makes my blood boil. but then again.. what do i expect from a group of people who obviously want to find fault in anything good our country is doing. to the author of this website.. stop looking for things that arent there. to the people who comment on this site.. most of you are liars and you have no idea what your talking about. so let me start in on you Bush haters. first of all.. you know for a fact it was shot down by an American missle? your a liar. im not going to sit here and lay out Balads defences for you. but trust me, it was no missle. and it wasnt our governments fault. second of all.. many people saw it? your a LIAR!! no one saw it. not one person saw that plane hit the ground. NOT ONE! some may have seen it, as it flew over the hospital. but no one on Balad saw that plane hit. i was in the control tower talking to the pilot. you couldnt see 50 feet in front of you that morning. i was the controller.. and i never made visual contact with the plane. and.. it wasnt his second attempt. it was only his first. he tried to land because from 5000ft about the airfield.. the pilot could see down to the base. he was too stupid to listen to me or the approach controller when we told him the vis from ground level. now.. to the author. you wonder why debris was scattered for such a long way? ever occur to you that umm.. that is what its going to look like when a plane hits the ground at 180 knots.. full throttle.. at a low angle of attack? yep.. thats pretty much what your going to get every time. i really do love how stupid your readers are.. but ill admit. i question whether or not they are even Americans. if they are.. their grammer is awful. oh.. one more thing.. you wonder why it was cleaned up so quickly? maybe it was to keep whatever was left.. out of terrorist hands. maybe its better that way.. HMMM?? oh.. if you want the real story.. just email me.

  17. On 3/22/2009 at 10:25 pm VT1 Said:

    Sorry.. one more thing. you said the base was closed for 3 days after the crash? wrong again.. we never closed at all. of course we didnt have any flying for several hours that day.. but we were never closed. i worked the very next day!

  18. On 5/5/2009 at 6:41 pm Pilot Said:

    To Balad controller:
    If you wanna chat Ok, write to me

  19. On 5/6/2009 at 7:01 am Niklas Said:

    Im from Turkey, maybe my grammar will not be very good, so I’m sorry for that!
    Well, first of al, I would like to say,that in his first newspaper interview, the lone survivor of the crash, one Turkish worker,told to the press; That the plane have passed one time the runway, and after there was a big noise in the rear part of the plane, and started fire onboard! All passengers begun to scream tha the plane is coming down! So this fact mean, that passengers knew and were conscious that plane is coming down! So it wasnt unnexpected, as you say Balad Controller.

  20. On 5/31/2009 at 1:18 pm MIGUEL ANGEL PANDURO SEGOVIA Said:

    muy interesante, y las fotos son inpactantes,

  21. On 6/22/2009 at 3:48 am Balad Rescue Worker Said:

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I have heard of these alleged eye witness statements and false reports again and again and I feel that I have kept my silence long enough. Not only was I there and a part of the rescue effort, but the entire event happened in front of my tower while I was on tower guard that day. I was then pulled off and dispatched with my partner, in my unarmored ambulance to try and rescue any survivors with others from my unit. I worked on both initial survivors, and to say the least, this lone individual who remains alive today, not only had no idea what happened, but has had to rely on second hand stories and pieced together memories, mainly due to his physical state at the time. It was I who transported the other individual who passed at the hospital. Anyone who says they witnessed it is not being truthful in any way. I had my camera with me that day, and when I was pulled off the tower, my relief used it to take pictures that prove these “eye witnesses” to be wrong. This is true, because I could not even see the ground looking straight down from the tower, let alone the individuals who claim to have witnessed it from hundreds of meters away. I know what these anti- rocket and mortar guns sound like and they never fired once that day. The loud crash reported by those in the hospital was that of the plane impacting the ground.
    For those who insist on blaming America for this, just remember. It was us, the Americans, who risked our lives by going off of the base in non armored vehicles to try and help. It was us, who had to pull the bodies, one by one from the wreckage and get them to a secure area, and it was I, who cried myself to sleep and still lives with the memories of it, because I wasn’t able to save another person so they could go home and be with their families. The conspiracy theories need to stop now. It was an accident plain and simple. The weather was horrible, and a bad thing happened. The plane was NOT shot down, and anyone who says otherwise is full of lies and deceit.

  22. On 7/3/2009 at 9:05 am Niklas Said:

    To Balad rescue Worker
    It’s interesting what you say,but it’s just words.If you have “your pictures” which can proove that you say the truth, about bad weather,so why you can’t show a few of them? And who was the other survivor? Is it was turkish worker or a crew member?

  23. On 7/19/2009 at 6:18 am Army Guy Said:

    I worked on Balad AB, called it Anaconda, cause I was in the Army. Wasn’t aware of any surface-to-air missiles on the entire base. I worked security on the towers and I also worked with munitions at the ammunition depot. Didn’t see any missiles in the one place they would’ve stored them… As for missiles at the hospital, I didn’t see any, and I’m sure they would be bad news for all the medical helicopters that land at Balads’ hospital. It is one of the busiest hospitals in Iraq. Do me a favor folks, unless you saw it get shot down, stop obsessing about rumors and speculation. Unless of course, you all believe in aliens and that JFK was assassinated by the CIA.

  24. On 9/8/2009 at 3:19 pm Lamar Said:

    It truly amaizes me that people who were not there, never been there, did not see the ACCIDENT, did not process the bodies, have not walked thru the wreckage (which is STILL piled on the North side of the base) find it neccessary to write on this site and act like they know what they are talking about. I was there, both before, during and after the accident. I worked at the hospital and attemted to differenciate what bady part go in which body-bag, I have watched many time the base self-defense system work, watched planes crash (at Balad), but not the one in question…the only person who witnessed the accident was a local farmer who only saw the turbo-prop hit the ground…no missle, no bullets, no laser-beam, no futuristic U.S. ray-beams or whatever all of you can use your imagination to come-up with…..what I am getting to, please do not speculate….many hard-working people died that day only trying to earn money for their was an accident…let them rest in peace!

  25. On 9/12/2009 at 8:50 am Lamar Said:

    …and a footnote….has anyone mentioned the possibility that the instrument approach syatem was built with copper wire? And during the rainy season, these wires get wet…and when they get wet…then some signals are misleading for the pilots in reguards to “altitude” ext….just a thought!?!?

  26. On 9/15/2009 at 10:05 am Player Said:

    But what was the reason? How an aircraft can crash 2.5 km on the right side of the runway 32? With those experienced pilots onboard, who many times were landing at balad air base………..They knew this base like their own hand fingers. I guess what really have happened that dark morning? What is your opinions,lets talk about this and discuss the issue!

  27. On 9/15/2009 at 1:38 pm Lamar Said:

    They had missed thier first approach. They went around. They made the 180 turn and were flying the “down-wind-leg” and simply were not able to determine thier altitude visually due to the fog/dust. From what I know, the copper wire in the base infrastructure is effcted by moisture and gives false signals….i.e. altitude. They simply had “controlled flight into ground” Lets all remember, this was an OLD AIRCRAFT, with OLD INSTRUMANTS, and used as a cargo the updates and maintenance were more than likely not totally up to ” modern-technology” standards…and with the speed they were traveling, of course they would dig a “trench” into the ground…200,000 lbs going 220 MPH…I am no physics expert…but that is a lot of mass! You mentioned they “knew this base like the back of thier hand”…but if there was zero visability, then they were at the mercy of their instuments and if they were getting “false signals” then they were sure to crash! Thats all I know, saw, heard…There have been many accidents since then, more people have died…I am speaking of OTHER base’s and other approach systems…thigs happen, we cannot help that, this is not the first, nor will it be the last…enough said.

  28. On 9/16/2009 at 9:54 am Player Said:

    Yes this was an old type aircraft, but I can say you for sure that this plane was equipped with a modern instruments, I knew they had a WS Gps system,which at that time was a brand new modern navigation system. An many others as well.
    You say that they simple didn’t know the real altitude, but this aircraft has the ability to climb from the altitude of one meter from the ground level.And those pilots could perform this maneuver with easy! they were very professional and commited pilots.
    As was mentioned in the official document from the American and Iraqi commision,it was declared the visibility was 200 meters horizontal,and 100feet vertical,which is around 30 meters, at the time of the crash, which happened at 10 00am Balad local time.
    I put here link to all of you, watch the video, and you will see about the climbing from one meter maneuver,on exactly the same type of aircraft.

  29. On 10/19/2009 at 4:14 pm Knight Soul Said:

    Let me correct an artical but a lot to tell i can say… First aircraft is Moldovian not Turkish. Russian aircrafts can not be registered in Turkish AOC(Air operator Certificate) since 5 years and there were just a few.
    The bird landed from Moldova to Turkey just 1 day before the last mission from fresh C-Check and correct TCASII and EGPWS was freshly planted on this bird plus this crew landed there more then 200 times with all types of desert weather conditions which means they can land with closed eyes no doubt.
    Ex-601 had not been very wellcomed when it landed there on the next day to pick up the funerals with a group of Turkish CAA inspectors and one Moldovian CAA inspector (that man which happen to fly there totally misadventure)
    No need to accouse the crew they had cleared in Moscow right before the blackbox records were decoded and published… First thing anyone can say pilot fault or fog or old technology which is the most easy way…Don’t forget they were there to provide full support and serve for the Troops nothing else.

  30. On 11/21/2009 at 1:20 am Bigfoot abducted! Said:

    I worked at a shop at the end of the runway, just inside the gate. I live and grew up in New England, yet I had never seen fog like we had that morning. At times, you literally could reach your hand out and not see your fingers. We were outside when we heard an explosion. It was loud enough to freeze us momentarily, and we retreated back into the shelter. Our location was right next to a C-Ram (Counter Rocket Artillery Mortar). When that thing fires, it is loud and unmistakable. Originally designed for Navy ships, when radar picks up on incoming, that unit goes into action by locking on and shooting down. Had it gone off, we would have heard and felt it. What we did hear is the string of first responders in ambulances and humvees making their way out the front gate. Could not see them, but the fog was cleared when we saw them returning. I remain proud and impressed that our American military will rush into a combat area to risk their lives for the chance to save another. I had volunteered a few times at the Air Force Theater Hospital, and I was totally unprepared for what I saw. Think of the Hospital as being a string of MASH tents lined up with a walkway between the rows of open ended tents on either side of you. I walked down the aisle, patients of different nationalities were being treated along side our military patience. Good guys, bad guys or sick children from the local village, a doctor explained to me that they are there to save lives, and everyone who needs help gets treated with the same respect for life. A rocket or missile fired from the grounds on the Hospital? No way. Balad AB/Camp Anaconda is huge. There are thousands of civilian contractors from all over the world who work on that base. One of the civilian contractors I was talking to was working with the Turkish group who was building the new facility, and he spoke of the crash as a tragic accident. There are a lot of other personal feelings and experiences that surround that event, but talking about them is a waste in this forum. I heard the explosion of the crash, talked with the flight surgeon in charge of the ER that day and I was in the hanger and saw the stacks of coffins holding the victims. Many readers simply want to twist around the facts with theories in an effort to maintain their fear – and that is what makes them happy. Here is a new theory for you: Michael Jackson is not dead. Now discus…..

  31. On 10/15/2011 at 11:21 pm former porter Said:

    i was there helped recover the bodies,there was a heavy fog and yes they tried to land on the hospital because it looks like a air strip from the air. the build i worked at was 1000 feet from the crash and it almost took us out also. they were told to go arround and abort landing, with it did but the pilot got mixed up. it was not shot down a classic case of human error. and there was no suvivors. i know i had to count and inventory the bodies and their passports .I gave 34 passports to the offical party when the aircraft picked them up the next day. so get over it. i know what happened. i saw the people, and i see it in my sleep even today.

  32. On 1/7/2012 at 8:01 pm Dream man Said:

    Tomorrow will be exactly five years since the crash! We need to remember them, like a heroes! of this useless war in Iraq! where so many others were killed for nothing!
    And I wanna say to the former porter,its official on the plane was installed a brand new GPS system, TAWS and other help devices, so yes it was an old aircraft,but upgraded very much with some new valuable cockpit devices/ On this types of planes crew consists of 4 people( 2 pilots,navigator and flight engineer) So 4 people experienced,with thousands of hours of flying under their belts didnt see the danger? the land? I saw the blacboxes review, they had very good approach up until 1000 meters to the runway and were at 50 meters altitude at the time,after that gave fullthrotlle and went for go around maneuver! that swows the telemetry data from the plane ! And the most important thing, pilots speech recorders were mysteriosly deleted,,,,,,,,,so there are no recorded pilots conversations at the time of the landing part of the flight,its strange,isnt it?coincedences happen but not so many time at one place!

  33. On 6/29/2012 at 4:31 am Legal eagle Said:

    Dear Nemo,

    Yes İ am literally a legal eagle. My family name means eagle in Turkish. İ am a lawyer and İ hold a commercial pliot licence. Frequently i am asked by courts to act as an expert witness in court cases which arisefrom aviation or air transport matters.

    İ have been recently asked by a Turkish court to comment on this plane crash. İ understand you have a cd full of photos, and these can be very important for properlydoing what the court has asked meto do. İs
    there any way you can make a copy of these andair mail thento me. Obviously i am willing to make a donation more than enough to cover your time and expense. İf you can do this, would you please be so kind as to let me know with a message to my email?

  34. On 10/31/2013 at 7:49 am bryan demarre Said:

    I was on site the moment the plane went down. Can I contact you at the address above? @briere?

  35. On 11/12/2013 at 7:13 am pilot Said:

    To bryan demarre
    You can contact me on this email
    I will wait for your message,with anticipation
    we can talk

  36. On 12/24/2014 at 12:24 pm Pilot Said:

    Please who was there at the crash site,can you describe to me what have happened to the plane,what was the case,there were 2 survivors, tell me it was a crew member or passengers?
    Please after many years have passed,describe to the relatives the truth.
    American army personnel, traffic controler,somebody???
    Im waiting for your thruthfull answers

  37. On 12/9/2015 at 8:32 pm Lance Barnes Said:

    Pilot, it was two Turks. I was in the 134th LRS. We were the base QRF. We found the plane, gave those guys medical attention the best we could, then loaded them up. The first guy we found alive because he screamed for help. I think he survived. The second guy was only barely alive, I glanced over and noticed he was still alive because I saw his eyes twitching. I don’t think he made it after we loaded him up. It was fog and pilot error that brought that plane down. Anyone that says anything else about it is wrong.

  38. On 3/29/2016 at 8:13 am Robert rittenden Said:

    I was a facial trauma surgeon on call that day. Two men were brought in alive one was flight crew who had a severely severed spine and severe burns and blunt chest trauma. The other male had severe head trauma neither survived. So anyone claiming they have talk to a survivor is mistaken. There was very heavy fog and I heard the engines at full throttle over the hospital and it flew into the ground. We had an anti-mortar and rocket system that DID NOT GO OFF. The system tracked threats and sirens would go off the actual firing of the system was done by an operator NOT automatic. IF the plane would have been hit by a missile I would have seen flames in the fog there were NO flames the plane flew into the ground. PERIOD!

  39. On 3/29/2016 at 8:18 am Robert Crittenden Said:

    BTW whoever stated the base was closed for three days is a liar. I left on a C130the very next day. Flight operations were suspended for several hours the day of the crash but we could CLEARLY See aircraft taking off and landing later that day.