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On 19 May 2024, the President of Iran died following the crash of a Bell helicopter, originally built in America.

My understanding is that following the crash of an aircraft, the international aviation treaties allow the aviation regulator of the country of the aircraft's origin to join the investigation.

Have the NTSB, the broader US government, or the Iranian government made any statements regarding the involvement of the NTSB in the investigation into this crash?

I'm not asking for speculation about what might have happened or what might happen, but about the law of the air and official government statements.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question. One for which the answer is, most likely "time will tell", and will, probably get closed. This is at least as much a political question as it is aviation. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 20 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ As it turns out, not only is it an interesting question, it has an interesting answer and probably will not get closed! $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 20 at 18:04

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In short:

For a civil use of the aircraft, pursuant to Chicago Convention, the US Government, as the government of the State where the aircraft was designed/manufactured, would be entitled to designate a representative for the investigation (§4.6 of Annex 13).

But the aircraft was operated by Iran Air Force, making it a State aircraft, for which the Convention doesn't apply (Art. 3 of the Convention).

There is no international treaty which can be invoked to participate to the investigation. Iran is sovereign in how they will conduct the investigation, with whom, and whether they will share any finding or conclusion.

As far as I know, nobody has publicly released a statement or a request for a participation to the investigation.


International Civil Aviation Convention

My understanding is that following the crash of an aircraft, the international treaties governing flight allow the aviation regulator of the country of the aircraft's origin to join the crash investigation.

Iran is part of the signatories of Chicago Convention. ICAO Annex 13 to the Convention is perfectly clear about participation to an aircraft accident investigation (§4.6):

In accordance with 5.18, the State of Registry, the State of the Operator, the State of Design and the State of Manufacture have the right to appoint an accredited representative to participate in the investigation.

So your understanding is correct for international civil aviation, the scope of the Chicago Convention. The US government could delegate a team including experts from the NTSB, the investigation agency, and the manufacturer, perhaps the FAA, the US regulator.

State activities

Will the NTSB be involved in the [investigation]?

Normally the State of occurrence, the State where the accident occurred, has an obligation to contact the States listed in §4.6, and ICAO, and arrange with them their participation (§4.1).

However in this case, the aircraft was operated by Iran Air Force. Per Art. 3 of the Convention), the aircraft is a State aircraft and the convention is not applicable:

a) This Convention shall be applicable only to civil aircraft, and shall not be applicable to state aircraft.

b) Aircraft used in military, customs and police services shall be deemed to be state aircraft.

The Convention being not applicable, no international treaty (international law) compels Iran to investigate this accident, this is a sovereign matter. If an investigation is conducted by Iran, there is no obligation for them to associate foreign entities.

If at any time the Iranian government sees a benefit in working with the manufacturer or a foreign investigation agency, this can be done on a voluntary basis for each party.

Collaboration of Iran under Chicago Convention

Doubts about Iran willingness to follow Chicago Convention must be weighted by what was done when a Boeing 737-800 of Ukraine International Airlines crashed near Sabashahr in 2020. This case was definitely embarrassing for Iran as they were suspected to have shot the aircraft:

  • Ukraine was involved.
  • NTSB was involved.
  • The flight recorders were analyzed by French BEA which is a reference in this field.
  • ICAO was involved.
  • States with citizen fatalities were able to follow the investigation.

From the final report of the Iranian investigation board, released 14 months after the accident:

The disassembling of the flight recorders and downloading the data was performed under the control and supervision of the accident investigator-in-charge using the BEA facilities and experts.

The representatives of the U.S. as the State of Design and Manufacture, Ukraine as the State of Registry and Operator, and France as the State providing service and technical advice participated in the process.

The experts of Canada, U.K. and Sweden, as the States having special interest in the accident by virtue of fatalities to their citizens, observed the process to stay informed accordingly.

A representative from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) participated in this undertaking to observe and facilitate collaboration among the States involved.

The conclusion of the investigation was the aircraft had been shot down by an Iranian missile:

The air defense’s launching two surface-to-air missiles at the flight PS752, UR-PSR aircraft, the detonation of the first missile warhead in proximity of the aircraft caused damage to the aircraft systems, and the intensification of damage led the aircraft to crash into the ground and explode instantly.

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    $\begingroup$ "this can be done on a voluntary basis for each party": A complication is that Iranian sanctions would require a special export license for any company working with them. See e.g. the investigation of TC-TRB where Bombardier noted they were prevented from sharing certain results of their work. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented May 21 at 0:08

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