U.S. Issued No-Fly Order Over Iran, Iraq Hours Before Ukrainian Plane Downed

FAA stopped U.S. commercial traffic over the region, potentially saving American lives

An engine lies on the ground after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020
An engine lies on the ground after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020 / Getty Images

Just hours before a Ukrainian plane was shot down Wednesday over Iran, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a no-fly order over Iran and Iraq, potentially saving scores of American lives.

A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) warning of potential hazards along flight routes in the war-torn region was first issued Tuesday evening by the FAA, just before a Ukrainian plane crashed near Tehran. U.S. officials believe Iran may have mistakenly shot down the plane in its airspace as tensions with the United States hit new levels.

"Our NOTAMs were published roughly three hours before the accident," an FAA spokesman confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon Thursday.

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The no-fly order outlined "flight restrictions that prohibit U.S. civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman."

"The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East," the NOTAM said. "We continue coordinating with our national security partners and sharing information with U.S. air carriers and foreign civil aviation authorities."

While the FAA official would not "speculate on what effect [the notice] might have had," one senior congressional official who works on airline issues told the Free Beacon that the order "may well have saved American lives."

"Iran is not a normal country, and they regularly act in reckless and unprofessional ways," said the congressional source, who was not authorized to speak on record. "The FAA showed vigilance and competence in publishing the NOTAMs when they did, and they may well have saved American lives."