Saturday, October 25, 2014 marks MH17’s 100th Day. As we approach this seminal day, an official investigation of the MH17 aviation disaster by the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, alleges the Boeing 777-200 was shot down by pro-Russian rebels using an advanced computerized Russian-built Buk missile taken from a Ukraine military base, according to the German newspaper, Der Spiegel on Sunday, October 19.
The German intelligence revelation contradicts previous allegations by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the missile was supplied by Russia.
Abbott said in August it was “almost indubitable that the weapon used to commit this atrocity was Russian-supplied,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.
The Australian newspaper and Aljazerra adding: US Secretary of State John Kerry said on July 19, “an enormous array of facts … point at Russia’s support for and involvement in this effort.”
Kiev pointed to the rebels allegedly saying Moscow armed them, however, both the rebels and Moscow deny any wrongdoing, Aljazeera confirms on Sunday.
European governments are cautious at this point about who is responsible for the MH17 aviation disaster, reports Aljazeera.
The Dutch Safety Board’s preliminary report released on September 9 said the airliner crashed due to a “large number of high-energy objects” from outside the Boeing 777-200 airliner. The Board stopped short of making any further conclusions at this point as to where the high-energy objects impacting MH17 originated.
The Board, which is also closely examining MH17’s flight data recorders, is holding off from making any final conclusions until the release of the final report in about nine months.
An Airliner Crash Immediately Heard Across The World
All contact with Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was lost on the early morning of July 17 at 13:20 Zulu (9:20 ET), when the transponder radar data became unreliable at 13:18 Zulu (9:18 ET) into what was supposedly was a routine flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Referring to the New York Times, “Flight MH17 was flying on a route that had remained open and active at higher elevations throughout the conflict in Ukraine. It had been closed up to 32,000 feet, but the Boeing 777-200ER airliner was traveling 1,000 feet above that. Hours before the crash, Russia had announced its own airspace restrictions near eastern Ukraine, closing below 32,000 feet the route Flight MH17 would have taken through Russia.”
MH17 was cruising along at 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) in the safest phase of flight with 298 souls aboard. Suddenly, the aircraft exploded.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down as a result of a vehicle-mounted advanced computerized Russian-built Buk missile system explosion in close proximity of the cabin of the Boeing 777-200, according to unofficial preliminary accounts so far, and supposedly so agree many international aviation safety and defense experts. The high impact explosion crashed the plane into pieces, widely dispersed across the remote farmlands in eastern Ukraine.
Specifically, the Boeing 777-200 airliner fell between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighboring region of Donetsk, after being reportedly hit by a missile over the rebel-held territory, says Breaking Travel News (BTN).
“Witnesses reported that Flight 17 broke up in the air near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. The wreckage from the crash was strewn across farmland in an area as large as six square miles,” the New York Times shows.
MH17 crashed immediately over eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on July 17, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. The Boeing 777-200ER, which was carrying 298 passengers, was on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, when it crashed.
Emergency workers immediately found 196 bodies at the site, where Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER airliner, operating as flight MH17, crashed on July 17, according to reports from BTN.
A total of 193 Dutch nationals and 38 Australian nationals were on board Flight MH17. Malaysia had 44 nationals on the flight, and the remains of 42 of them have been brought back to Malaysia so far. Besides Malaysians, nationals from the Netherlands, Australia, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, Canada and New Zealand were among the 283 passengers and 15 Malaysia Airlines crew on board MH17. Most of the additional victims remains have since been recovered and returned home to their loved ones.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia would continue with its own safety investigation and criminal probe into the MH17 aviation tragedy through the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), alongside the Dutch team of safety investigators, including further assessments into the preliminary report of the Dutch Safety Board.
“We hope the report can help in obtaining sound evidence to bring the criminals to the international court,” he said.
Liow also said that the remains of 262 of the 298 victims on board MH17 had been identified.
He said he also hoped that the remains of the two missing Malaysian victims would be among the 27 remains undergoing identification at the Military Medical Centre in Hilversum, Amsterdam.
Authorities have since agreed that the alleged use of an advanced computerized Russian-built Buk missle to shoot down a passenger airliner is a criminal act of liability and terror to the international flying public, all commercial airlines, and The Boeing Company.
Both sides in the Ukrainian civil conflict have accused each other of shooting down the jet with a missile, BTN said. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said there was “plenty of evidence to indicate indirect if not direct Russian involvement in the shooting down of this plane,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.
The Associated Press reported on July 17, “the Malaysian jetliner that went down in war-torn Ukraine did not make any distress call.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday, July 18, adding that “its flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body.”
CNN International on Saturday, July 19, said the MH17 crash site is “the largest crime scene in the world.”
German Intelligence: Boeing 777 Was Shot Out of the Sky by Pro-Russian Rebels
BND president Gerhard Schindler presented satellite imagery a couple of weeks ago to a German parliamentary committee.
The evidence by German intelligence indicated that pro-Russian separatists captured a BUK missile system from a Ukrainian military base, then later fired it on MH17, the German newspaper, Der Spiegel reported on Sunday.
The head of Ukraine’s SBU, Vitaly Naida, said in July Ukraine’s security service had “clear evidence” of direct facilitation by Russian citizens in the downing of MH17. Naida also said he provided the evidence to international intelligence services.
During a recent “shirtfront” challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said those on board MH17 were “murdered with Russian support.”
“Australians were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian-supplied equipment – we are very unhappy about this,” Abbott said.
The largest number of 196 passengers on board flight MH17 were Dutch. As a result of international protocols and norms in aviation crash events, involving safety and security breaches, The Netherlands has taken the international lead in the overall safety investigation and findings report of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The safety board promises to publish its final MH17 crash report within twelve months of July 17th incident.
The Dutch Safety Board, headed by Chairman Tjibbe Joustra, coordinates investigation of the tragedy as of July 23 on the basis of an informal agreement with the Ukrainian side. The group of international investigators consists of aviation safety and security representatives of The Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, United States, Russia, and Ukraine.
Investigation procedures of the Dutch Safety Board’s Preliminary Report: Crash Involving Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight MH17, Harbove, Ukraine, – 17 July 2014, released to the public on September 9, 2014, comply with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Dutch Safety Board’s main objective is to establish the causes of the MH17 crash and to offer recommendations for safety of international commercial passenger flights.
The Dutch Safety Board stresses inside its preliminary report that the safety council does not have any authority to “apportion blame” and to “place responsibility for the tragedy” on any nation or specific group or persons. The Board further adds such issues must remain within the scope of the Dutch prosecutorial authorities.
Brief summary of the Dutch Safety Board Preliminary MH17 Crash Report Findings are outlined here.
Additional details inside the complete Dutch Safety Board, Preliminary Report: Crash Involving Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight MH17, Harbove, Ukraine, – 17 July 2014,is available here.The reports issued by the Dutch Safety Board are open to the public. This preliminary report and all other reports are available on the Safety Board’s website.
BND president Gerhard Schindler, while at a meeting of the Bundestag committee responsible for monitoring BND, said his agency’s “unambiguous findings” were that the missile was fired by “pro-Russian separatists,” Der Spiegel reported and confirmed Sunday on Aljazeera.
He said Ukrainian recordings had been manipulated, but he also dismissed as false Russian claims that the missile was fired by Ukrainian soldiers, or that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to MH17, according to the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.
German intelligence has strong evidence that Russia has supplied weapons and other support to the separatists,” reports the Australian newspaper, although German intelligence hold that the missile that downed MH17 was not furnished by Russia.
Further investigation into alleged war crimes upon Flight MH17 by unknown perpetrators has been initiated by the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office, a spokesperson conveyed to the German newspaper Der Spiegel on Sunday.
MH17 Crash Victims’ Forensics Investigation
A poignant independent investigation plans to study injury patterns of those on board flight MH17 along with the aircraft’s black-boxes in an attempt to establish more definitively how the plane was shot down over Hrabove, Ukraine, on July 17, the New Straits Times reported on Thursday, October 2, 2014.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital pathology consultant, Dr. Mohd Shah Mahmood, explained that forensic experts will also begin matching MH17 victims’ seating arrangements against the patterns of injuries found on their bodies once all of the victims’ remains have been identified.
The preliminary examinations of scans taken during MH17 victim identification process revealed that passengers suffered various degrees of fatal injuries, depending on their seat location on the Boeing 777-200 airliner, as wound patterns increased the further back a passenger was seated. Such pattern studies will address “entry wounds, depth of projectile in the remains, type of projectile, entry angle and exit wounds, if any,” reports the New Straits Times.
“You can see that the remains that were either intact or relatively intact were (those of victims) sitting in the front and at the back of the aircraft, while those who suffered the most injuries were (seated) in the center.”
“Investigators may also notice that those who had sat in the center of the aircraft, near the engines, suffered more serious injuries compared with those seated in the front and at the back, who did not suffer any burns.”
“There are a lot of theories going around, but since the plane had just begun its flight, the fuel tank would have been full and those sitting near the wings (where the fuel bladders are located) would have sustained more burns compared with the others,” Dr. Mahmood conveyed to the New Straits Times. He said investigators were yet to begin establishing a correlation between injuries and seating positions as not all remains have been identified.
Dr. Mahmood said most of the remains had multiple injuries from the impact of falling from more than 30,000 feet to the ground, adding that many had fractured or crushed bones in several places.
“Most of the remains in the first few batches were intact.
“That is why the process of identification was faster compared with the later remains.”
The task of MH17 victim identifications and forensics is being conducted by a multinational Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team that involves forensic experts from Germany, Belgium, Australia, United Kingdom and Malaysia.
Dr. Mahmood indicated the DVI team had found metal or foreign objects embedded in remains, when they were scanned, and he said these scans will be examined in more detail to assess crash forensics about the destruction of the Boeing 777-200 airliner on July 17.
“The Malaysian DVI team had no opportunity to examine the remains of MH17 passengers with possible criminal evidence, as they had gone straight to the criminal investigation team handled by the Dutch DVI team,” states Dr. Mahmood.
He said upon the arrival of the MH17 victims’ remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and later, Amsterdam, they were first scanned for chemical, biological, radiology and nuclear explosives before going through the computed tomography (CT) scan.
Dr. Mahmood added: “Using the CT scan, the DVI team would later separate the remains, which may contain embedded metals or other evidence, from the rest.
“Remains with foreign object embedded in them would be subjected to further investigation,” he said. “This is important, as the objects could be evidence that could help in the investigations into the downing of the airplane.”
It is believed that MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile while flying over war-ridden Hrabove, Ukraine on July 17, 2014. However, the Dutch Safety Board has so far only noted in its preliminary report on September 9 that “a large number of high-energy objects” penetrating the plane had caused it to break up and resulting in the death of all 283 passengers and 15 Malaysia Airlines crew members.
Detailed Investigation of MH17 Flight Data Recorders
Dutch Safety Board spokesperson, Sara Vernooij, said further examination of MH17 flight data recorders will provide more information about the downing of the plane, including ascertaining the coordinates where the aircraft was shot down.
“A more detailed analysis of the data is also needed before we can say what kind of ‘high-energy objects’ had penetrated the aircraft,” she was quoted saying.
The MH17 black-box data may also narrow down the location where MH17 was hit, and give more information, such as the status of the Boeing 777-200 Trent 800 engines and onboard systems, as well as, the airliner’s altitude, speed, and state of its onboard systems, she said.
The Boeing 777-200 flight data recorders can also assist investigators in determining at the exact time of flight MH17’s safety breach, the position of the airliner’s flight control surfaces, such as the flaps, aileron, horizontal stabilizers, slats, spoilers and rudder.
Spokesperson, Sara Vernooij, added: “However, the process of encrypting the flight data recorders will take time, as it contains binary data (zeros and ones) that needs to be converted into workable data before it can be analyzed.”
“A more detailed analysis of the data is also needed before we can say what kind of ‘high-energy objects’ had penetrated the aircraft,” she said.
Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said he could not conclusively say if the MH17 black-boxes could show the trajectory of the high-speed object that had shot down the Boeing 777-200.
“I was there in Farnborough in the United Kingdom, when the investigators analyzed the data from both black boxes, Rahman recalled.
“As stated in the preliminary report, there were no abnormalities or warning signs heard in the cockpit voice recorder. The recording stopped abruptly.”
Rahman further commented on the scouring mark under the Boeing 777-200’s left wing, saying that “whether the black-boxes had managed to record the missile impact was subject to several conditions.”
He added: “It depends on whether the missile exploded above or below the aircraft, how severe the glancing blow was to the left wing, and how it had affected the handling of the airplane.”
The Dutch Safety Board anticipates that it will be able to answer all essential questions surrounding the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash inside their final investigation report released about a year from now.
United Nations Security Council Resolution Allows Investigators to Restore Order to MH17 Crash Site
Like in the Hollywood movie “Ground Hog Day,” the MH17 Déjà vu aviation disaster is analogous to the June 1, 2014 “Five-Year Anniversary of AF447: MH370 Déjà vu” aviation tragedy.
The international watchdogs, safety experts, and aviation trade organizations, International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as, the Dutch Safety Board are now placed front and center in order to vigorously perform their essential tasks of determining the forensic circumstances and a cause of what happened to MH17. Most of all, these essential groups must ensure that we have no more MH17 Déjà vu aviation disaster, as well as, no more “Five-Year Anniversary of AF447: MH370 Déjà vu” aviation tragedy.
Human lives are at stake. Henceforward, patience in stating, speculating and storytelling of the truths is prudent now more than ever. Why? Because international aviation safety and security community is now working in crisis mode to maintain public confidence.
Late evening on July 21, The United Nations Security Council requested a complete international investigation of Flight MH17, adopting a resolution today that requires unrestricted access for investigators.
The measure was approved unanimously, gaining Russia’s support only after a key edit.
“Russia agreed to the resolution after changes to the text which said the ‘downing’ of the plane, rather than the ‘shooting down’ of the aircraft,” NPR’s Jackie Northam reports.
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images. Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin votes for a U.N. Security Council draft resolution, unanimously approved on July 21, demanding full access for investigators at the Malaysia Airlines crash site in eastern Ukraine.
The U.N. resolution includes a call for cooperation, both in the investigation and with efforts to punish those responsible for bringing down the airliner as it flew over eastern Ukraine.
The Security Council of the United Nations have adopted an unanimous resolution condemning the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and loss of 298 lives “in the strongest terms”. The United Nations Security Council’s 15 members demand “a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines”.
The Security Council demanded further that “armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site, including by refraining from destroying, moving or disturbing wreckage, equipment, debris, personal belongings, or remains, and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site…” and all military activities be ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site. The UN stated: “The Council also demanded that those responsible for this incident to be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.”
As part of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) experts have arrived in the Ukraine over the last three months “to begin assisting their Ukrainian counterparts with the official accident investigation into the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.”
ICAO’s council president said on July 21, “ICAO’s accident investigation experts are in the Ukraine to respond to a call for assistance from the State’s National Bureau of Incidents and Accidents Investigation of Civil Aircraft. Their work relates to Annex 13 investigations, the objective of which is to determine the causes of an accident and to make recommendations that will help prevent future accidents. This is a painstaking process and the collaboration of all concerned with the international team of investigators, notably where access to all evidence and data is concerned, will be greatly appreciated.”
This is absolutely an international call-for-action for the commercial passenger airline’s trade group, International Air Transportation Association (IATA), and the United Nation’s commercial passenger airline’s policy group, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to counsel, to advise, and to warn sovereign states to establish clearer commercial passenger risk management policies and guidelines, like those of British Airways, for restricted flight paths over known war zones by commercial passenger aircraft.
Photo Credit: The 37th ICAO Assembly made resolutions on safety, security and environment improvement strategies which would promote coordination and cooperative action and guide efforts in various aviation regions under the leadership of ICAO in Montreal, Canada on March 26, 2013.
Sadly, Eurocontrol had the Ukrainian war zone open to commercial air travel at the time MH17 was tragically thrown out of the sky. Malaysian official said ICAO had approved the route the doomed MH17 airliner took. However, this appears to be a misreading of what exactly the ICAO does. ICAO issues advisory only, based on civil airline business decisions taken by delegates, rather than mandating to its members what to do in commercial passenger airline travel.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in which 298 souls have been bombed out of the sky, and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, in which 239 souls have vanished out of the sky, now ranks as the largest air disaster in total lives lost at 537 souls, in aviation history, since American Airlines 587 crashed into a New York suburb back on November 12, 2001, where 260 souls perished.
Malaysia Airlines is now in the fog of the greatest dual-crisis in international aviation safety and security history,” I said to Reuters.
Nonetheless, Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister, vowed on July 21st that his country will not rest until justice is served for the 298 civilians (over half of them Dutch) killed on board flight MH17, the Malaysia Airlines flight which was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, separating the conflicting legal systems that could possibly bring justice to the 11 nationalities of the victims (including the carrier country, Malaysia), along with Ukrainian law and the conflict of international law begins, as the 12 affected countries came together in The Hague recently over these past three months to discuss coordinating their separate judicial efforts, says an legal analysis in The Economist.
“All this could set a new legal precedent over the question of whether the provision of weapons that can endanger civil aviation requires a higher duty of care by the country which supplies them than more ordinary weapons. But that will be cold comfort for the relatives who will have to wait for justice to be served, if indeed it proves to be possible at all,” The Economist concludes.
Photo Credits: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, Registration Number 9M-MRD, which is reported by Malaysia Airlines as the crashed aircraft of Flight 17.
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