ATW Editor's Blog

MH17: The unthinkable happens

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The entire air transport industry as well as the traveling public is in shock today as we come to terms with the second catastrophic loss of a Boeing 777, one of aviation’s most revered, safe and reliable aircraft.

Heartfelt thoughts go to the families of all 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and also to everyone at Malaysia Airlines, which now finds itself in the unthinkable, unbearable situation of dealing with two fatal crashes and the loss of so many of its crew in less than six months.

It’s far too early to know the cause of the MH17 tragedy, but sadly that will not prevent the sort of insane speculation that we saw with MH370. That will not be helpful to either the investigation or the relatives and loved ones of those who died today.

What we do know is that MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that “it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 … approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.”

The flight departed Amsterdam at 12:15pm local time. And there are photographs of the wreckage that clearly indicate a sudden and catastrophic event.

FAA, meanwhile, has issued a statement saying it has been in contact with US carriers following the crash and that carriers have voluntarily agreed not to operate in the airspace near the Russian-Ukraine border. FAA is monitoring the situation to determine whether further guidance is necessary.

FAA issued a NOTAM in April prohibiting US flight operations until further notice in the airspace over the Crimean region of Ukraine, and portions adjacent to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The NOTAM does not currently cover the airspace where MH17 crashed.

The political fallout from this event will be enormous and, combined with the location of the wreckage, make this a hugely difficult and challenging investigation that could also be dangerous to the on-site investigators.

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