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MAS B777 crash kills 295 people – believed hit by missile

July 18, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59A Malaysian Airlines B777 with almost 300 people aboard has crashed in eastern Ukraine close to the border with Russia and may have been shot down  by a missile. Early this morning, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it held “grave concerns that a number of Australians may have been on board the flight”. 

The number of Australians was later given officially as 27. Most passengers were Dutch nationals.

Flight MH17 was a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and was flying over war-torn Ukraine when it disappeared from radar. The BBC reports that 280 passengers and 15 crew members were aboard. All have died.

The downed flight MH17 was a B777-200ER, the same model as Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March.Photo posted on European social network VK.com shows two people in a field inspecting part of the wreckage

The tragedy is an astonishing and horrific twist of fate, a cruel and devastating blow for Malaysia Airlines and for the passengers – but also with profoundly serious implications for the travel industry. It means air travel is less safe. Shares in airline stock in the US dived immediately after the news hit.

Almost as quickly, international passenger flights started re-routing to avoid eastern Ukrainian airspace, redirecting their flightpaths to avoid the region where flight MH17 crashed, according to Flightradar24.

Malaysia Airlines said this morning that “in light of the recent tragedy of MH17 on 17 Jul 2014” it would waive all fees for changes to travel from today until further notice to any MH destinations, applicable for transactions till next Thursday 24 July 2014. It added that Malaysia Airlines flights to and from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and Auckland would operate as per normal schedule.

MAS lair issued an update, saying: “Passengers who wish to postpone or cancel their travel plans can obtain a refund, including for non refundable tickets. Enrich passengers will also receive fee waivers for any changes to their travel itinerary, as well as refunds of miles should they choose to cancel their redemption tickets. These waivers are only applicable from 18 July 2014 until 24 July 2014, for travel between 18 July 2014 until 31 December 2014.”

The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels have denied shooting down the plane but the Wall Street Journal has reported US defence and intelligence sources saying that it was hit by a missile fired from the ground.

Suspicion has fallen on pro-Russia separatists who may have made a mistake and fired on the plane using a Buk launcher – a Russian-made, medium-range surface-to-air missile system.

The scenario of an aircraft being fired on with a short-range, shoulder-launched missile while taking off or landing at an airport has happened before and has long worried security analysts.

The MH17 crash is much more serious even than that. If a missile hit flight MH17 it would likely have been a big ground-launched weapon. The plane would have reached cruising altitude, having taken off from Amsterdam, roughly 2000km from the crash site.

The BBC is reporting allegations by an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Herashchenko, that the plane was hit by a missile fired by a Buk launcher. This Russian system, carried by a heavy vehicle, is equipped with four surface-to-air missiles with a maximum target altitude of 72,000 feet (22,000 metres) making it capable of hitting any commercial aircraft at any height.

The missile travels at three times the speed of sound and would be virtually impossible for any airliner to avoid.

LATER THIS MORNING, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak issued the following statement:

“Yesterday evening, I was informed of the terrible and deeply shocking news that a Malaysia Airlines jet went down in eastern Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the jet was Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

“The flight departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm, local time. It was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 6.10 am, local, Malaysian time. The aircraft was a Boeing 777-200. The aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. And International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.

“Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft did not make a distress call. The flight was carrying a total number of 295 people – comprising 280 passengers and 15 crew members. Malaysia Airlines is in the process of notifying the next-of-kin of the passengers and crew. All possible care will be provided to the next-of-kin.

“The Government of Malaysia is dispatching a special flight to Kiev, carrying a Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team, as well as a medical team.

“According to information provided by Kiev Air Traffic Control, the location of the plane’s emergency locator beacon is 48 degrees 7 minutes and 23 seconds North; and 38 degrees 31 minutes and 33 seconds East. The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down.

“At this early stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy. But we must – and we will – find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone can be left unturned. If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.

“Emergency operations centres have been established. In the last few hours, Malaysian officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Ukraine and elsewhere. And I will be speaking to a number of world leaders over the coming hours. I have had several conversations with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. I have also spoken to the President of Ukraine. He has pledged that there will be a full, thorough and independent investigation, and Malaysian officials will be invited to take part.

“The Ukrainian president also confirmed that his government will negotiate with rebels in the east of the country, in order to establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site. Just now, I received a call from President Obama. He and I both agreed that the investigation must not be hindered in anyway. An international team must have full access to the crash site. And no one should interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box.

“This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia. As we work to understand what happened, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those onboard the flight. I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time.

“The flight’s passengers and crew came from many different countries. But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief.”

 

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Industry Travel Asia says:

    A sad day for the world. An appalling day for families of those lost and affected. An indictment against the creators of such weapons. The focus is on the lack of control in the Russia/Ukraine.

    Malaysia is strong country. This action against them will only strengthen their national carrier to lift its head higher and prove that they take safety and comfort seriously. We hope that the world community has more to say about this than sheer rhetoric and sound bites being spewed, and there is visible action on every flight path to stop this type of ‘terrorism’.

    If this were to repeat itself elsewhere, the ‘Bird-Flu’ crisis to the travel industry would look like a stuffy nose.

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