Wednesday 10 September 2014

Dutch Safety Board Say MH17 Brought Down By External High-Energy Objects

The Dutch Safety Board leading the investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 say the aircraft was brought down by 'high-energy objects' penetrating the cockpit and front of the Boeing 777-200.

The preliminary report of 34 pages was released yesterday, though it was not accompanied by any supporting materials like audio files of the voice recorder black box or satellite data. The initial findings appear to rule out conclusively that MH17 came to an abrupt end over Eastern Ukraine killing all 298 on board due to technical malfunctions or pilot error.

From the report's summary findings:

According to the information received from Malaysia Airlines the crew was properly licensed and had valid medical certificates to conduct the flight.      

According to the documents, the aircraft was in an airworthy condition at departure from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, there were no known technical malfunctions. 

No evidence or indications of manipulation of the recorders were found. 

No aural alerts or warnings of aircraft system malfunctions were heard on the Cockpit Voice Recorder. The communication between the flight crew members gave no indication of any malfunction or emergency prior to the occurrence. 

The engine parameters were consistent with normal operation during the flight. No engine or aircraft system warnings or cautions were detected.           

No technical malfunctions or warnings in relation to the event flight were found on Flight Data Recorder data. 

Both recordings ended at 13.20:03. 

ATC / Airspace
At the time of the occurrence, flight MH17 was flying at FL330 in unrestricted airspace of the Dnipropetrovs’k (UKDV) FIR in the eastern part of the Ukraine, the aircraft flew on a constant heading, speed and altitude when the Flight Data Recording ended. UkSATSE had issued NOTAMs that restricted access to the airspace below FL320. 

The last radio transmission made by the crew began at 13.19:56 hrs and ended at 13.19:59 hrs.             

The last radio transmissions made by Dnipropetrovs’k air traffic control centre to flight

MH17 began at 13.20:00 hrs and ended at 13.22:02 hrs. The crew did not respond to these transmissions. 

No distress messages were received by the ATC.             

According to radar data three commercial aircraft were in the same Control Area as flight MH17 at the time of the occurrence. All were under control of Dnipro Radar. At 13.20 hrs the distance between the closest aircraft and MH17 was approximately 30 km.           

Damage observed on the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft appears to indicate that there were impacts from a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft.           

The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was not consistent with the damage that would be expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines or systems. 

The fact that there were many pieces of aircraft structure distributed over a large area, indicated that the aircraft broke up in the air. 

Based on the preliminary findings to date, no indications of any technical or operational issues were found with the aircraft or crew prior to the ending of the CVR and FDR recording at 13.20:03 hrs. 

The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft. It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.

However, beyond this, the report tells us little more about what happened MH17 or anything about the how, why and who was responsible for the multiple high-energy objects which resulted in the mid-air break-up of the aircraft. The Dutch Safety did make it clear last week that the preliminary report would not attempt to attribute blame and considerable work still remained on an investigation not expected to deliver its final report, conclusions and recommendations until next summer.

Indeed, despite headlines and coverage in the media following publication, the report never mentions the word missile, nor does it mention the phrase shot down, and it does not categorically prove that MH17 was downed by a BUK missile, as some news reports have suggested.

While the complex nature of this investigation and the conflict in Ukraine together with the current geo-political climate continue to present huge challenges, the Dutch Safety Board may have been wiser to present the actual audio of the flight voice recorded, considering it provides no clues as to what transpired at 13.20 (GMT) on July 17th.

"On 18 July 2014 around 06.00 hrs the National Bureau of Air Accident Investigation of  Ukraine (NBAAI) sent a notification that on 17 July 2014, at 13.20 hrs, a Boeing 777-200 with registration 9M-MRD of Malaysia Airlines disappeared to the west of TAMAK waypoint. The NBAAI was notified by the Ukrainian State Air Traffic Service Enterprise (UkSATSE) that communication with the flight crew had been lost. A signal from the aircraft’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) had been received and its approximate position had been determined."
Page 7 of 34 - Preliminary Report

It is also notable that there appears to be a 17 hour period before the NBAAI formally notified by UkSATSE. Of course this may also be attributed the circumstances and the fact the aircraft had been brought down in a war zone.

The radar information used does not make any reference to Russia's claims of a Ukraine fighter jet present in the area at the time MH17 disappeared from ATC radar.

My suspicion is that the Dutch Safety Board are in possession of a great deal more information, as yet not fully verified, or they are still awaiting the release of information.

Let's hope the current ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine holds and investigators can get boots back on the ground as soon as possible.

Below, Crash MH17 - Chairman Tjibbe Joustra, talks about the initial summary findings of the preliminary report.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

USA Silent While Tracing 11 Missing Jets Believed Under Control of Islamists Terror Group

An Islamist extremist group is believed to be in possession of at least eleven commercial aircraft following a prolonged rocket and gun attack on Libya's Tripoli International Airport late last month. United States intelligence agencies have refused to confirm or deny that up to eleven aircraft were reported missing by two Libyan state-owned airline companies, amid growing military and political chaos in the country. Fierce battles have raged at the airport since July when it was shut down, and before it was finally taken over by militant group Libya Dawn. The airport had been under the control of two other militia groups, known as Al Qaqa and Al Sawa, including the control of all aircraft belonging to Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways.

The stability of Libya has rapidly deteriorated due to intense fighting between Islamists and anti-Islamist militias. Recent news footage from Al Jazeera TV and international press photographs over the past two weeks have shown a number of damaged aircraft. The Libyan Airlines fleet includes fourteen passenger and cargo jets, including seven Airbus 320s, one Airbus 330, two French ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, and four Bombardier CJR-900s. Libyan state-owned Afriqiyah Airways fleet has thirteen aircraft, including three Airbus 319s, seven Airbus 320s, two Airbus 330s, and one Airbus 340.

US Government officials have not publicly confirmed that eleven aircraft are missing following communications with Libyan Government officials and the Egyptian military, who are considering military intervention as the crisis in Libya threatens to bring about the complete collapse of the Libyan State.US intelligence agencies are believed to be working to track down the aircraft using radar recordings and satellite imagery. The real concern is that the aircraft could be used in attacks to mark the anniversary of 9/11 later this month. While another attack using aircraft on US homeland is considered unlikely, there is the threat that Islamists could use the aircraft to target US interests in neighbouring countries in North Africa or possibly as far away as Saudi Arabia.

The Washington Free Beacon was the first news source to be leaked this information from inside US intelligence circles, though Al Jazeera TV has been reporting the possibility of missing aircraft for the past week. The Daily Mail was the first UK newspaper to pick up on the story this morning.

From The Washington Free Beacon:

Abderrahmane Mekkaoui, a Moroccan military expert, told Al Jazeera television, which first reported the airline theft Aug. 21, the alert regarding the stolen jetliners was preventive and covers the region from Cairo to Lagos Nigeria.

Mekkaoui said the jets being held by the Libyan group called Masked Men Brigade that was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in December.

The Masked Men Brigade is linked to al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia—the group behind the Benghazi terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2012.

Mekkaoui said “credible intelligence” reports given to states in the region indicated the Masked Men Brigade “is plotting to use the planes in attacks on a Maghreb state” on the 9/11 anniversary.

Monday 1 September 2014

Russian Foreign Minister Demands MH17 Data Be Publicly Revealed

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has upped the media offensive in recent days on the Dutch-led MH17 investigation. While calling for an unconditional ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine to "end the suffering of civilians," Lavrov also demanded that data gathered from the two recovered black boxes (currently under forensic examination in the UK) and transcripts of exchanges between the pilots of MH17 and the Ukrainian air traffic control (ATC) must be made available to the international community.

Since August 6th, when Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte consulted with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and suspended the search for body parts at the crash site, the rural towns of Rozsypne, Petropavlivka and Hrabove have borne the scars of recent rocket fire, underlining the dangers of conducting any kind of recovery and mapping investigation. With the absence of many journalists from media outlets on the ground, MH17 has disappeared off the editorial agenda of most western media organisations—with the exception of networks in the Netherlands and Russia.

In any normal aviation investigation, all human remains would have been recovered, the search area mapped out, and debris of the aircraft removed to a secure location. But MH17, like MH370, has been anything but an ordinary investigation. The initial investigators at the crash site of MH17, under the auspices of the OSCE, were simply tasked with recovering human remains and performing an observatory role. Ironically, it was the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), using photographs taken by numerous international agencies present in the area, who presented the first real anatomy and identification of the crash site across the three towns in Ukraine. Since this WSJ article, more wreckage has been located in forests in the region. 

As yet, we are still awaiting the preliminary report from the MH17 investigation team which was meant to be delivered at the end of August. This report will not attribute blame or attempt to resolve who or what brought down MH17, but merely present very basic information.

Whatever initial information the investigation team have from the black boxes, ATC, and military intelligence, it must not be suppressed simply because it does not copper-fasten or support claims made by any government agencies who were quick to farm out blame in the hours following the downing of MH17.