‘”Given the circumstances, timeframe, and information at hand, you took the only action possible to safeguard your ship and your people.”
Charles H. Price II, American Ambassador to Great Britain
Letter to USS Vincennes Captain Capt. Will C. Rogers III
In a rare communication from a diplomat to a military officer, the American Ambassador to Great Britain has sent the captain of the cruiser Vincennes a congratulatory message.
The Ambassador, Charles H. Price II, told Capt. Will C. Rogers III that he understood ”how extremely concerned you must be” about the episode in the Persian Gulf in which the Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner.
Mr. Price said he joined other Americans ”in congratulating you for having done your duty.”
In a message circulating through the Navy Department in Washington, the Ambassador said: ”We have received numerous letters from British citizens at the embassy here in London. These letters, without exception, are fully supportive of your actions.”
The transcript of radio calls between the downed Iran Air jetliner and air controllers appears to support Iran’s assertion that the plane was sending out normal radar signals for a civilian aircraft and was climbing from 12,000 feet to its assigned altitude of 14,000 feet when it was shot down by the United States Navy.
The transcript also shows that the pilots of Flight 655 talked with three different controllers on three different frequencies in the seven minutes from takeoff to the time it was shot down, suggesting that the pilots were unlikely to have been monitoring a separate emergency frequency on which the Pentagon said warnings were issued.
Standard Information for a Civil Flight
The information exchanged was standard for civil flights: headings, temperatures, altitudes and checkpoints, punctuated by the succinct politeness of airline pilots the world over. The transcript was in English, the language pilots and controllers use worldwide for standard radio communication. It was made public yesterday by Iran’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, at the United Nations.
After Flight 655’s pilot radioed the tower in Bandar Abbas, Iran, for permission to begin to taxi, the tower controller passed on the request to Teheran, where flight controllers talked with their counterparts in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai agreed to the altitude assignment of 14,000 feet and the code for the transponder, which planes uses to enhance radar signals, and passed back along the chain to the pilot. Transponder Code Was Confirmed
The four-digit transponder code assigned to each flight makes the radar echo display information unique to that flight. As is routine, the transponder command, ”Squawk 6760,” was confirmed each step of the way from three sets of controllers to the pilot.
The tower controller in Bandar Abbas double-checked the code after the pilot’s confirmation call, saying: ”Squawk 6760 read back is correct. Call when ready for takeoff.” That was just after 10:10 A.M. local time – or 10:40 A.M. in Dubai, which has a half-hour time difference with Iran. That confirmation call was made 7 minutes before the plane took off and 14 minutes before it was shot down.
The tower controller in Bandar Abbas ended his call with, ”Have a nice day.” Flight 655’s pilot confirmed the clearance and radioed back: ”Thank you very much. Good day.”
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