Never in a million years did I ever expect that I would be writing another article about a Boeing 777 airplane falling out of the sky. Ridiculous, right?
Photo Credit: Taken on July 28, 2013, at Shanghai Pudong Airport, by Steven Richardson, aviation analyst at FlyersPulse.com, of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, Registration Number 9M-MRD, which is reported by Malaysia Airlines as the crashed aircraft of Flight 17.
All contact with Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was lost on the early morning of July 17th 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.
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. An advanced computerized Russian Buk-M2 SAM missile slammed into the cabin of the Boeing 777-200ER and blew the airliner right out of the sky.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a vehicle-mounted advanced computerized Russian-built Buk missile system, say defense experts.
MH17 crashed immediately over eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday, 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 on Thursday.
Emergency workers have found 196 bodies at the site, where Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER airliner operating as flight MH17 crashed on Thursday, according to the most recent reports from Breaking Travel News (BTN).
It 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 BTN
The 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.
Something MUST be done to stop this immediately from ever happening again. Period.
This is endangering and imperiling commercial passenger air travel. It poses to the public an international aviation stability breach. This incident is absolutely intolerable to public safety and security of world travelers and those whom benefit from international trade alike.
- In addition, the world’s thoughts and prayers go out to the MH370 crew, passengers, and their families and friends, now united with those families and friends of the passengers and crew on board MH17, undergoing their deepest grief in facing this international aviation disaster and tragedy. May peace be with you, as we all continue to move forward in getting to the bottom of this MH17 incident, just as we are about to re-launch our international search for MH370 in August.
As I said on March 15 to The Washington Post and on Fox News Hannity on March 14, “There are two things missing here: the plane and patience.”
We are now missing two planes, MH370 and MH17. Sadly, patience has run out among us, as it rightly should.
Collectively, we all believe this MH17 aviation disaster, so soon in the wake of the MH370 aviation tragedy, is outrageous and preposterous.
Given both the MH17 disaster and MH370 tragedy hitting us in over four months, it is incomprehensible we should have to also deal with this MH17 apprehensible nuisance to common law. It undermines the public trust in and integrity of international aviation safety and security.
Where has the implicit promise of safety and security to the flying public gone at this point? Something must be done to end such aviation safety and security breaches for now onward.
The loss of 537 lives on MH17 and MH370 in four months has now reached into the realm of absurdity.
I believe this senseless loss, specifically of 239 souls on board MH370, and now a horrible loss of 298 souls on board MH17, is a ludicrously extreme event. The flying public should not have to endure this type of military ballistic weaponry risk and unsafe commercial passenger airliner mishaps in our digital-age of aviation safety and security.
State of international commercial passenger air travel faces a crisis of integrity and trust.
What has happened to our previously stellar world of commercial passenger flight safety?
Will this nonsense of safety breaches cause the flying public to seriously question, “Why We Love and Loathe Flying?” (see my article featured on LinkedIn Pulse Airlines & Aviation and Customer Experience Channels)
As an aviation enthusiasts, I am appalled, dismayed, horrified, and outraged by the destroyed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17’s Boeing 777-200ER, Registration Number 9M-MRD on July 17, 2014, and the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, also a Boeing 777-200ER, which disappeared on March 8, 2014.
Photo Credit: Donetsk (Ukraine) Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, Registration Number 9M-MRD is reported by Malaysia Airlines as the crashed aircraft of Flight 17. Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP) is an international news agency, headquartered in Paris. AFP is the oldest news agency in the world and one of the largest.
Just as much, it is unfortunate such a superb aircraft from The Boeing Company should be faced with such a nuisance of an extreme accident of no fault of their own on such a fine engineering marvel as the Boeing 777-200ER that regularly travels the globe.
The Boeing 777 program represents 20 years of proven technology with a stellar safety record. The safety record of the Boeing 777 has been exemplary without incident for two decades until the Asiana Airlines crash landing in San Francisco on July 6, 2013. The Asiana incident was a result of pilot error, human factors historically being the cause of 9 out of 10 aviation safety mishaps, including the Asiana Airlines flight 214 crash, according to the final report by the United States National Transportation Safety Board. Remarkably, all passengers were able to escape the burning aircraft within seconds, largely due to United States federally-mandated “16-G-force” bolted seating that allowed safe avenues of exit for the passengers on board Asiana 214.
I reported on Fox News then that “Boeing teaches us not only how planes fly, but also how planes should crash in saving hundreds of lives” in the Asiana Airlines flight 214 San Francisco Airport crash landing.
Remarkably, exactly 18 years ago from Thursday on July 17, 1996, a similar international aviation safety breach happened with the downing of Trans World Airlines flight TWA 800, due to an explosion of the Boeing 747-200 center fuel tanks, shortly after takeoff over Long Island Sound, off the coast of New York.
From Seattle, The Boeing Company issued a statement on July 17, 2014 on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the Malaysia Airlines airplane lost over Ukrainian airspace, as well as their families and loved ones. Boeing stands ready to provide whatever assistance is requested by authorities.”
“Borat with a Buk?”
Any airliner cruising at 33,000 feet is now vulnerable. Thursday’s aviation safety breach of a Boeing 777-200ER is ridiculous for the public’s flying security in the 21st century. This video below shows What Can We Do With a Buk? – an advanced computerized Russian missile launcher.
When one looks at this video and also looks at the aftermath of the MH17 unsecured crash site, one cannot help but to think about Borat with a complex piece of machinery that he does not really understand how to use, as he is trying to take down a small fighter jet.
“Borat with a Buk” immediately and suddenly realizes he has made a huge catastrophic blunder using the Russian military launcher. When he looks over and sees a piece of wreckage that says Malaysia Airlines and another piece of wreckage that says 9M-MRD (as indicated in the above wreckage photo), “Borat with a Buk” now comprehends he has mistakenly taken down a commercial Boeing 777-200ER airliner with a Buk!
If “Borat with a Buk” sounds like a Hollywood trailer of a comedy movie, it would be humorous at this point, if we were observing this inside a movie theater.
Except “Borat with a Buk” is not our Hollywood imagination in the aftermath of the MH17 disaster on Thursday, July 17. This is because Borat alone cannot operate a Buk. It takes a number of people skilled in advanced computerized ballistic weaponry (as the above video clearly reveals to us, as we take a closer look inside a Buk).
On the contrary, nonetheless, we all observed Thursday the ridiculous and ludicrous comic strip was actually happening, right before our eyes in completeness of a horribly real aviation disaster of an engineering marvel, like a Boeing 777-200ER, being shot down out of the sky.
What is most troubling is this aviation safety incident may have been an accidental misfire, as Russian-backed rebel and separatist groups, or Russian forces based in eastern Ukraine, or some other hidden national interests with an agenda in the region, allegedly may have been performing practice runs with the Buk missile launcher, shooting at fighter planes or helicopters in the sky.
Earlier in the week, Russian forces may have been allegedly responsible for shooting down a Ukrainian jet.
The Buk, which Ukrainian interior minister Anton Gerashenko has blamed for the attack, has a range of up to 25,000 meters, and can easily down an Boeing 777-200ER airliner cruising by at 10,000 meters, says The Guardian (U.K.). Defense experts believe this may have allegedly happened on Thursday afternoon, as Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 flew her route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he believed that either Russians or Russian-supported groups in eastern Ukraine were responsible. He said they had been shooting at Ukrainian aircraft over the last week, reports The Guardian (U.K.).
The Guardian further suggests, Kalashnikov-carrying Russian sympathizers in Ukraine would not have had the expertise to use the Buk system and would have needed either specialist, who had “volunteered” their services from Russia or locally recruited experts. Russia is alleged to have infiltrated special forces into Ukraine in the guise of rebels.
Sutyagin, who monitors social media in Ukraine, said a Ukrainian rebel force had been spotted just hours earlier with a Buk system at Torez, a village close to the site where the plane came down.
He added that a Ukrainian transport plane had been flying overhead close to the time that the missile was fired at the Malaysia Airlines plane, suggesting that may have been the original target. The transport plane had been trying to relieve a beleaguered Ukraine garrison, says The Guardian (U.K.).
Like for the MH370 aviation tragedy, who really knows anything for sure at this point with Thursday’s MH17 aviation disaster?
To save fuel, but not lives?
Why then was the Ukraine airspace even open for commercial passenger airline use in the first place? Are we kidding? These are very dangerous air travel routes, as these maps below chart out for us.
First and foremost, in this digital-age of aviation, what in the world was MH17 or any commercial airliner doing flying over a war zone? These quite revealing New York Times (Europe) pictures speak a thousand words.
The Associated Press reports, “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.”
MH17 was taking the shortest most economic route, for what? To save gas, but not lives, ludicrous!
MH17 was traveling on routes that were closed at lower elevations. 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.”
Path of Flight MH17. The plane was on Airway L980 (shown below in red), which has remained open at elevations above 32,000 during the conflict in Ukraine. Before Flight MH17 took off, Russia closed more than a dozen airways at various elevations. The A87 route (shown below in black) that Flight MH17 would have followed was only open above 32,000 feet. The MH17 crash site location near the Russian-Ukraine border is shown below.
Sources: Eurocontrol, Federal Aviation Administration, Restricted flight areas before the July 17, 2014 crash by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (shown directly above in red) and Eurocontrol (shown directly above in blue).
Before MH17, some airlines avoided Ukraine. “A survey of flights to Asia from Europe in the last week found that some airlines had been flying over eastern Ukraine and some had been avoiding the area,” reports the New York Times.
Source: Flight path data near Ukraine (shown as indicated in white in the middle of each figure) from flightradar24.com, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur (top left – flew over Ukraine), Air France Flight 166 to Bangkok (top right – avoided the area), British Airways Flight 9 to Bangkok (middle left – avoided the area), KLM Flight 809 to Kuala Lumpur (middle right – flew over Ukraine), Lufthansa Flight 772 to Bangkok (bottom left – flew over Ukraine), Thai Airways Flight 931 to Bangkok (bottom right – largely flew over Ukraine).
Where the MH17 wreckage fell. “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.
Source: Satellite image by DigitalGlobe via Google
Crash site and missile launch within area of rebel activity. “Eastern Ukraine has been roiled for months by a violent pro-Russian separatist uprising. A United States official said the missile that shot down the plane was launched from a region near the towns of Torez and Snizhne,” said the New York Times.
Source: Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense. Show the approximate area (in red square) of the advanced computerized Buk missile launch.
Path of MH17. The plane was headed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when radar trackers lost it. The last know location of MH17 was at 4:21 pm local time.
Source: Flight-path data from flightradar24.com
Many more lives could have been lost, if for example, this was a full Airbus A380 operated by Malaysia Airlines from London Heathrow Airport to Kuala Lumpur, or any other such carriers that could possibly be flying an Airbus A380 or Boeing 777 aircraft over the same Ukraine airspace, including operators, such as KLM, Thai Airways, Lufthansa Airlines or Singapore Airlines (although this writer does not know, if Singapore Airlines either flies over Ukraine or avoids the area).
This horrible MH17 safety incident was completely avoidable.
CNN International on Saturday, July 19 said the MH17 crash site is “the largest crime scene in the world.”
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.
Sadly, Eurocontrol had the Ukrainian war zone open to commercial air travel at the time MH17 was tragically thrown out of the sky. Malaysian officials 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.
What we don’t know much about as of July 19, 2014 is three alarming concerns: (1) commercial airlines flying over war zones, (2) an unsecured MH17 crash site, and once again, at the risk of sounding like a red-herring, (3) “It’s Time to Put the ‘Black-Box in The Cloud.’
How can we secure the flight data recorders (known as the ‘black-boxes’) not only in remote oceanic regions, as we have seen with the MH370 disappearance. But also now, as we see with the MH17 safety disaster and chaotic unsecured crash site, the black-boxes are misplaced once again. Now, this time somewhere inside a war zone.
We just do not know right now whether the precious flight recorder data inside black-boxes are being tampered with or being compromised to destroy the chain of evidence of what was happening on board moments before a Russian Buk exploded next to the Boeing 777-200ER cabin sending shrapnel through it. Remarkably right now, the black-boxes may be allegedly up for grabs among rebels or separatists in an unsecured crash site inside a known war zone.
Avoiding Russian-Ukraine War Zone Anarchy with a Buk!
The Telegraph (U.K.) reports, “A rebel leader in Ukraine has this morning said that the pro-Russian fighters will guarantee the safety of international monitors at the Malaysian jet’s crash site, if Kiev agrees to a truce.”
“We declare that we will guarantee the safety of international experts on the scene, as soon as, Kiev concludes a ceasefire agreement,” the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic’s deputy premier Andrei Purgin said in a statement.
It is very hard to get the whole truth about what exactly is going on inside the Russian-Ukraine War Zone. It is an anarchistic “black-hole” nowadays. Any facts held onto firmly too long are probably not correct.
Three major questions of international security now have a direct bearing on aviation safety and security:
First and foremost, what is happening in the Russia-Ukraine region? Revolution? It is a revolution that is now the most important revolution of our lifetime! United States and United Nations national security community and NATO think-tanks are trying to find its bearings after Thursday’s MH17 aviation disaster, including the ongoing MH370 aviation tragedy.
International security interests are also re-thinking their approach in the region, as a result of the world changing so fundamentally in such a short time of four months. These extreme events are happening so fast that we do not have time to be astonished nowadays.
The Russian-Ukraine revolution is analogous with the 18th Century French Revolution. Only now the actors and players are armed with an advanced computerized missile called a Buk! In such revolutionary situations, radically different things can happen, like the downing of a Boeing 777-200ER packed with 298 civilians, cruising at 33,000 feet from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Such revolutionary disaster events cause discontinuous and radically different change.
Above all, the MH17 loss should NOT have happened. The human story irrevocably tied to this newest aviation disaster is how to bring closure to the grieving families for lost loved ones aboard MH17, as well as, for the lost loved ones disappeared aboard MH370.
- Let me tell you how I felt, as an airlines and aviation enthusiast about this aviation tragedy yesterday. First of all, like everyone watching the extreme outrageous nature of this MH17 incident unfold, I felt just awful for the 298 people lost on board. Also, I just have not forgetten the 239 people that vanished on board MH370.
- Yesterday, as a caring human being, I, along with many others around the world, grieved for all 537 of their souls.
- Finally, I thought about the dozens of AIDS researchers who perished, and what the world has been denied in scientific contribution and medical knowledge. We probably lost a potential cure for AIDS on MH17, as dozens, perhaps a hundred top AIDS scientists and attendees to an international AIDS conference were on-board that Boeing 777-200ER.
*Correction, July 20, 2014: This article originally misstated that about 100 passengers killed on MH17 were flying to the International AIDS Conference, an estimate that was widely reported before the release of the passenger manifest. After more information was released, the International AIDS Society reported that six delegates were among those killed.
Video Credit: The Telegraph (U.K.). Leading members of the AIDS research community pay tribute to colleagues who were travelling on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, when it crashed in Ukraine
In this October 2008 photo provided by AMC Amsterdam on Friday, July 18, 2014, former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange is seen. A large number of world-renowned AIDS researchers and activists heading to an international AIDS conference in Australia were on board a Malaysian jetliner that was shot down over Ukraine, officials said Friday, as news of their deaths sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community. Among them was Joep Lange, a well-known researcher from the Netherlands (AP Photo/Peter Lowie/AMC).
Next, what will happen inside the Russian-Ukraine nations? Alternative Futures? Thursday’s downing of a Boeing 777-200ER airliner by an advanced computerized Russian-built Buk is the most serious threat to the international security community. The Russian-Ukraine conflict is not a ‘black-box‘ rather a ‘black-hole‘ that has suddenly blown-back and exploded into our faces much to our astonishment.
The actor and players with an interest in this conflict had two choices: (1) they could make a Buk for billions of dollars, or (2) they could buy it. The Russian-Ukraine region is now the “Home Depot” for buying a Buk!
We all must now be interested in any sovereign state that proliferates these advanced computerized weaponry (including nuclear, biological, and chemical weaponry of mass destruction). The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is clear and irrevocable evidence of how a Buk can be a weapon of mass destruction in a moment of five minutes.
When we now think of the Russian-Ukraine region, we must think of three main aspects of alternative courses of action going forward.
- First, a reformist Russian-Ukraine resolution, as a result of the stunning shock of the MH17 aviation disaster. Here, Russia-Ukraine muddles along in a discontinuous fashion with potential to reach a flash-point of firing all over again, including downing a Boeing 777-200ER. Remember, the Russian-Ukraine governments are facing deficits, hyperinflation (well over 100%), high unemployment, and slow GDP growth.
- Second, a revisionist Russian-Ukraine, under extreme revision of nationalist politics, faces a significant drop in quality of life for its people, a substantial constraint on the Russian-Ukraine economy, and globally-observable anarchy within its military-industrial complex. Thursday’s MH17 extreme event disaster undermines the region’s authority and control of its advanced computerized military ballistic weaponry.
- Third, a collapsed Russian-Ukraine state is a highly-likely scenario for a regional conflict that has fallen into a ‘black-hole‘ that has erupted into the downing of a Boeing 777-200ER near Donetsk (Ukraine). “Borat with a Buk” is incapable of performing minimum state functions. It has no borders, no law and order, no economic stability, or no legitimate commerce or trade. Most of all, “Borat with a Buk” brings about military anarchy and unrest to civilians and international aviation safety and security.
Finally, why should we care about the Russian-Ukraine conflict? Loose Buks? After Thursday’s downing of MH17, it is all about international interests in safer and secure skies.
We witnessed “What can we do with a Buk?“
What we learned on Thursday was how a Buk can ruin your whole afternoon. It sure ruined mine.
What matters most now is everything matters in the Russian-Ukraine region going forward.
We also learned that some things matter more relative to others – like a five minute launch of a Buk!
We also must focus on what matters most. That is, how we globally aviate, navigate and communicate across safer and secure skies of international aviation. That is, safer skies over Asia, safer skies over Australia, safer skies over Africa, safer skies over Europe, safer skies over The Americas, and most of all, safer skies over the Russian-Ukraine region.
Consequences are extraordinary in the aftermath of the MH17 disaster and MH370 tragedy.
The Boeing 777-200ER airliner debris field is massive along the 15 kilometer spread along the Ukrainian-Russian boarder.
A “black-box” once again needs to be recovered to establish any chain of evidence and facts in this latest MH17 aviation disaster on July 17, much as in the ongoing MH370 aviation tragedy on March 8.
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 (IATA and ICAO) as well as, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)need to be placed front and center in order to now step up and vigorously perform their essential tasks of determining the forensic circumstances and a cause of what happened. 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 recover public confidence, I firmly believe.
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 recently on Reuters.
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