Thursday, 17 July 2014

Malaysian Airlines MH17 - 777 Shot Down


The aviation industry is in shock tonight after the news breaks of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 crashing in Eastern Ukraine. The flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was carrying 296 passengers and crew and is believed to have been shot down by a ground to air missile – however this has yet to be confirmed.

Official information is extremely limited and most of the information available coming from unconfirmed sources and social media.  Flight MH17 was approximately 50 kilometres from entering Russian airspace when it came down with what appears to be the loss of all souls on-board.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, said the aircraft would have been shot down, "We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine armed forces did not fire at any targets in the sky," he said in a statement. Later he said this was not an accident but “An act of terrorism.”

Dozens and dozens of bodies were scattered around the smouldering wreckage of the plane, close to  the village of Grabovo, some  25 miles from the Russian border, according to reporters at the scene. Grabovo is in an area controlled by the Russian separatists who have been known to shoot down Ukrainian military aircraft. Unconfirmed reports advise that moments after the incident a tweet from a twitter account previously used to publicize Russian Separatists shooting down Ukrainian military aircraft, claimed it had shot down another military transporter.

It's believed that there were 8 Britons on the downed aircraft, however this has yet to be confirmed as the passenger manifest has not been publically released at this time. Other unconfirmed reports state as many as 20 could you US citizens with the majority of the rest mixed between Malaysian and Dutch.

Emergency workers at the scene of the incident commented that at least 100 bodies had been found so far, with wreckage scattered across a wide area,  "I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang and shots. Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke," a witness, named only as Vladimir, told a Reuters reporter close the area.

On a tweet and in a statement, Malaysia Airlines confirmed that Ukraine's air traffic control lost contact with flight MH17 at 2.15pm GMT, approximately 30 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border. Flight MH17 codeshare flight with Dutch carrier KLM was operated on a Malaysian Boeing 777 and departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm [local] and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10am the next day. The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard."

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister commented on social media that the plane had crashed in Ukrainian territory after being hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher.  News agency Associated Press advised one of its journalists had seen a similar launcher near the town of Snizhne earlier on Thursday.

So far the leaders of the self-declared Donetsk people's republic denied any involvement and according to a Russian news agency Russian Separatists may also have retrieved and are holding the black boxes of the aircraft. Emergency workers have been reported as saying that armed separatists are hampering and interfering with any rescue attempts.

"This is the third tragic incident in recent days after Ukrainian military An-26 and Su-25 jets were shot down from Russian territory. We don't rule out that this plane was also shot down, and we stress that the Ukrainian military didn't take any actions to destroy targets in the air," said Ukrainian President.

Speaking in Delaware USA, President Barack Obama said his administration was seeking "to determine whether there were American citizens onboard.  That is our priority. And I've directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. As a country our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home."
Earlier, Obama and Russian leader Putin spoke on the phone regarding new US sanctions imposed on Moscow over its alleged failure to halt the flow of weapons and fighters to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. Diplomatic relations between the two nations are ‘tense’ at the moment and if it process that MH17 was shot down by Russian made and supplied missiles relations will be pushed to breaking point.

Several airlines, including British Airways, Virgin, Aeroflot, Turkish Airlines and Russia's Transaereo airlines have all announced they would avoid Ukrainian airspace with immediate effect. German airline Lufthansa confirmed it would steer clear of airspace over eastern Ukraine.

The Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, said via Twitter: "I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation."  The country's defence minister tweeted that he was "monitoring closely" claims that MH17 had crashed, saying: "No comfirmation [sic] it was shot down! Our military have been instructed 2 get on it!"

J Shaw