/ Xeni Jardin / 8 am Thu, Jul 17 2014
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  • Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 reported shot down in Ukraine near Russian border

    Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 reported shot down in Ukraine near Russian border

    RTR3Z39M

    Around 11:00AM ET today, Interfax, CNN, and other news agencies began reporting that Malaysia Airlines flight 17, heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in eastern Ukraine.

    Some 280 passengers and at least 15 crew members, a total of 295 lives, are believed to have been on board the Boeing 777 passenger jet. This is the second crash involving Malaysia Airlines within the past few months.

    Ukraine's interior minister says the plane was “shot down,” and claims Ukrainian forces are not responsible, but that pro-Russia forces are. Early reports say the plane may have been struck by a Buk anti-aircraft missile system developed by Russia. The Buk system has been reported in the possession of both Ukrainian and pro-Russia forces in the region.

    Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister, told the Associated Press today that Malaysia Airlines MH17 was likely struck by a Buk-fired missile, while the plane was flying at 33,000 feet. An AP reporter reported having viewed a Buk system in the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier today.

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    Early public reports of the flight manifest indicate there were American citizens on board.

    President Obama, speaking in Delaware at pre-planned event around 2pm ET, said the U.S. government is “working to determine” if this is correct. In a press conference just after 2PM ET, the US State Dept. said it cannot confirm.

    Below, a widely-circulated video said to show the crash.

    Ukrainian officials are "very concerned" about conditions surrounding the apparent crash. Around the same time of the crash, the defense minister of pro-Russian separatist group Donetsk People's Republic claimed to have "shot down a Ukrainian plane," reported CNN and others. Earlier this week, two planes were reported to have been shot down in this region, by the Russian side.

    Malaysia's Prime Minister says the nation is "shocked" at reports of a possible second jet crash involving Malaysia Airlines, and that the government is launching an "immediate investigation."

    The President of Ukraine calls it a “terrorist action,” and blames separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

    Other international flights scheduled to travel through the region are re-routing to avoid Eastern Ukraine.

    In April, 2014, The Federal Aviation Administration had warned U.S. pilots not to fly over portions of Ukraine in the Crimea region. [PDF Link]

    The incident takes place on the anniversary of an earlier historic air tragedy: on July 17, 1996 TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed, killing 230 people in one of the three deadliest aviation disasters in American territory.

    Russian military BUK-M2 missile system at a demonstration race on July 4, 2010 in Zhukovsky, Russia. (Shutterstock)


    Russian military BUK-M2 missile system at a demonstration race on July 4, 2010 in Zhukovsky, Russia. (Shutterstock)

    File image of a Russian Buk anti-aircraft missile, in action. [Reuters]


    File image of a Russian Buk anti-aircraft missile, in action. [Reuters]

    Reuters file photo of Malaysia Airlines passenger jet.


    Reuters file photo of Malaysia Airlines passenger jet.

    In a press conference held just before 2pm ET, a Ukrainian Defense Official said the investigation will be conducted by Ukraine government forces in the Donetsk region.

    "It will be difficult work due to the huge spread of wreckage, and due to the challenges posed by armed terrorists in the area," he told reporters.

    But international observers are questioning how the government of Ukraine could possibly run an effective and impartial investigation. If Ukraine does, the argument goes, the process will be politically charged and lack the urgently needed expertise of an international body with history conducting such investigations. If Russia directs an investigation, it would be politically tainted in another way. Would Ukraine permit a U.S. or European investigative body to control the process? Unlikely.

    Of greatest importance: accessing the plane's "black box" data recorder, as fast as possible. The crash scene is a crime scene, experts point out, and that crime scene is already tainted.

    / / 100 COMMENTS

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    Notable Replies

    1. By far the most likely scenario is that the "Rebels" mistook it for an AN-26, because they're basically just well armed thugs who just got some new toys and don't follow proper IFF procedures.

      Russia has been spewing out disinformation at an impressive rate over this incident, but I don't think it's going to stick. There was no Ukranian jet fighter that shot it down and was then shot down by the Rebels. Ukrane didn't sneak their own AA missiles into the region and hack the social media of the leaders just to discredit the rebels. This was some poorly trained asshole given too much power and screwing up.

    2. I'd like to see what route you would choose to go from Europe to the Middle East that doesn't fly over contested areas.

      Normally airliners are reasonably safe. Most insurgent groups can't get anything better than a MANPAD, and those won't even get close to shooting down a cruising airliner. Actual SAM hardware is expensive enough that generally only trained operators working for major governments have access, and they usually don't shoot down airliners.

      This particular screwup is especially embarrassing because the AN-26 is a smallish turboprop transport aircraft. The 777 was flying well above its service ceiling and faster than the maximum speed of the aircraft. The 777 is also much larger and is visually distinctive. A properly operated SAM system would have a guy with a pair of binoculars out there verifying the target before you pull the trigger, especially in a busy commercial corridor. These guys saw a blip on the radar and immediately hit the big red button because they are idiots.

      It will be interesting to see if the west and especially Europe take a closer look at this conflict now. I'm guessing maybe some more economic sanctions and some public condemnation and not much else.

      Looks like the Rebels have recovered the black box and are sending it back to Moscow. Official cause of crash: Pilot Error.

    3. If you're avoiding flying over "war zones" then you have to avoid:

      Israel
      Palestine
      Egypt
      Syria
      Iran
      Iraq
      Afghanistan

      When an entire region is prone to constant low level warfare it is just not feasible to reroute every time a brush fire breaks out. Generally people don't shoot at foreign commercial air traffic anyway because it is political suicide. Redoing routes is expensive. It throws off the schedule which affects all connecting flights, it also may not be possible if the plane on the route is already near its maximum fuel load for the route.

    4. Mod note: No victim blaming.

    5. If it's an accident it's a tragedy. This is not a tragedy, it's an atrocity.

    Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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