Putin Gave the Order to Shoot Down a 737 Passenger Jet

Russia has elections next weekend. Putin’s power is secure, but he still has an aggressive PR campaign to look tough in advance of the polls. So we get a stream of Putin tough guy messaging, including that he gave the order to shoot down a Pegasus Airlines 737 in 2014.

I’ve long said that the primary reason fighters scramble when there’s the possibility that a plane has been hijacked is to be prepared to shoot down that plane. There’s a lot of handwaving about visual inspections of the cockpit, scrambling jets means being ready to take out everyone onboard to protect those on the ground.

And that’s standard procedure in Russia. The pilot of the Pegasus flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Istanbul reported that a passenger had a bomb and was demanding they head to Sochi where the Winter Olympics were being held.

Putin says, “I told them: act according to the plan,” which “called for the plane to be shot down.”

However it didn’t come to that because the Pegasus jet provided an update that “the passenger was drunk” and they weren’t actually diverting. The 110 passengers onboard would be permitted to live.

In fact as the plane arrived at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport Turkey scrambled fighter jets as well.

Here’s the man being removed:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You were saying this before 2001? Because I don’t think that was the case at all before 9/11. It obviously is today – this is not a special insight post-9/11. But it would have been quite remarkable thinking before. The notion of “plane as a weapon” was basically non-existent before 2001 so shoot down was not part of the the plan. That’s also why post-9/11 hardened cockpit doors and PAX who fight back are the only two security measures that matter – the TSA does nothing but security theater.

    And this is why post-9/11 those scrambled fighters are actually armed. Read the story and testimony of Heather Penney, who prepared to fly a suicide mission on 9/11. She also testified that being able to fly outside of ATC and use the radar of a modern fighter to clear their airspace and intercept hostile targets (i.e. not flying in circles off the coast next time this happens).

  2. Not surprising. It’s hard to think he didn’t give the order to down the commercial airliner a few years ago when they were invading Crimea. The entire world turned a blind eye because it’s Putin.

  3. The Russisan are good at shooting down commercial passenger aircraft. Of course we have KAL 007 where all passengers were blown out of they sky and fell into the ocean. On the other hand we have more recently Malaysian Airlines flying at high altitudes somewhere near the Ukraine. Their peaceful overflight was interrupted by a missile detonation, resulting in hundreds of bodies raining from the skies, where upon landing, locals picked over the corpses which were left lying in the sun to rot. Yes, Russia (or their proxies) have a lot of practice shooting passenger jets from the sky.

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