As unthinkable as shooting down an airliner with hundreds of passengers is, it has happened before. Among the most notable cases in recent decades were an Iranian plane shot down by the U.S. Navy and a South Korean airliner destroyed by a Russian fighter jet.
- On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655, with 290 people on board, was shot down over the Persian Gulf by the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes while the plane was still in Iranian airspace. The incident took place toward the end of the Persian Gulf War. U.S. officials later determined the Vincennes mistook the Airbus A330 for a fighter jet. The plane was en route from Tehran to Dubai. There were no survivors. The U.S. government eventually reached a financial settlement with the families of the Iranians victims.
- Five years earlier, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, with 269 passengers and crew, was shot down by a Russian fighter jet west of Sakhalin Island in the East Sea off as it strayed into prohibited Soviet airspace. The plane was en route from New York to Seoul on Sept. 1, 1983, following a route that took it over Alaska before crossing the Pacific Ocean. All on board were killed, including Larry McDonald, a conservative Republican congressman from Georgia. The Soviet Union initially denied knowledge of the incident and later insisted the plane was spying. Soviet leaders refused to release the plane's flight data recorder until several years later. The incident marked an especially tense moment in the Cold War. The incident helped lead to the commercial release of GPS for civilian use, including aviation. The technology was developed by the U.S. military.
- Libyan Airlines Flight 114 entered Israeli-controlled airspace over the Sinai Peninsula. It was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 Phantom jets fighters, refused to land and was shot down. The Boeing 727 was en route from Tripoli to Cairo via Benghazi on Feb. 21, 1973 but was off course. Five of the 113 people on board survived.