July 29, 2012: Did Syria make it all up? One June 22nd, Syria announced that it had shot down a low flying Turkish F-4 reconnaissance aircraft while (according to Syria) it was flying 13 kilometers off the Syrian coast. Now that the Turks have recovered the bodies of the pilots and some pieces of the aircraft, there is growing evidence that the aircraft was not hit by gunfire or missiles. The Turks suspect that the F-4 was lost due to pilot error or mechanical failure.
Turkey said the F-4 was 23 kilometers off the coast (in international air space) when it went down and that all would be answered once the wreckage was located and brought to the surface for examination. Within a week the general location of wreckage was found a few kilometers from the Syrian coast, at a depth of 1,300 meters. Soon divers found the flight helmets and boots of the two crewmen and by July 4th, had recovered the bodies of the two pilots as well. Specialized recovery ships are now bringing pieces of the F-4 wreckage to the surface. The black box (called the Flight Information Data Recorders and actually painted orange) has not been found and may be lost. Most black boxes are built to keep their data safe for 30 days at a depth of 6,100 meters of salt water.
A close examination of the wreckage will reveal what brought the aircraft down and where. If black boxes are recovered with data intact, the situation will be much easier to sort out, especially if the aircraft went down because of equipment failure of pilot error. But for the moment, the Turks are starting to describe the aircraft lost due to accidental causes, not anti-aircraft fire. The Turks have good reason to go with this approach because it's not unusual with troops in wartime to claim they shot down an aircraft when they only opened fire on an airplane that was going down for other reasons.