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  (Source: Ria Novosti)
Large passenger jet was reportedly shot down, no one is believed to have survived

In a tragedy that could ignite the smoldering powderkeg of U.S.-Russian relations, a large passenger plane crashed in Ukraine this morning, reportedly shot down by a truck-mounted rocket system.  The crew and all 280 passengers and 15 crew members onboard Malaysia Airlines 17 are believed to be dead.
 
The incident is the latest tragedy for Malaysian Airlines (Malaysia Airlines System Bhd (MK:MAS)), which in March lost another passenger jet due to unexplained circumstances.  Even as the Asian airline continues to search with dimming hope for the wreckage and black box of the that flight, it now has a fresh tragedy on hand.
 
Like MH370, the jet that went missing on March 8, the second crashed plane is a Boeing Comp. (BABoeing 777.  Filled with passengers, the jet was travelling homeward from Amsterdam, Netherlands to the capitol city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when it fell from the sky, bursting into a violent explosion that sent smoke into the air that could be seen from miles away.
 
Interfax -- a Russian news agency -- was one of the first sources to report on the fiery crash:

Malaysian Airlines downed

Several YouTube users also posted what they claimed was video of the crashed aircraft.







As the say goes, when it rains, it pours.  That certainly seems to be the case for Malaysian Airlines.  

You can hardly blame the tragedy on Boeing who owns a near perfect track record when it came to safety from mechanical failures.  The Boeing 777 had previously only seen 4 incidents that damaged the hull of a plane -- two of these incidents involved overrunning the runway.  Only the most recent incident -- the July 2013 crash of an Asiana Airlines passenger craft at San Francisco International Airport -- led to any fatalities.
 
The Boeing was so safe that Malaysian Airlines opted to skimp on the optional satellite tracking service from the UK's Inmarsat plc (LON:ISAT), which has caused much grief in the wake of the still-missing MH370 jet.
 
This time around, the satellite tracker is believed to have been active (in the wake of the previous crash, Inmarsat offered up free service to all airlines that install its pricey tracking devices).  But the again there was little doubt where it crashed.  The crash goes to show that even the safest passenger aircraft can easily fall victim to modern weaponry.
 
Ria Novosti, a Russian state news agency, posted dramatic photographs of the wreckage.

MH 17

MH 17

MH 17
[Images Source: Ria Novosti]

Reuters has other pictures of the wreckage:

MH-17 wreckage
[Image Source: Reuters]

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine's Interior Minister posted a statement to Facebook commenting [translated]:

Just over Torez terrorists backed by Putin's given "Buk" anti-aircraft missile battery shot down a civilian aircraft flying from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam.  This morning local patriots were recorded moving the battery by Tereza in the snow.

The aircraft pilot was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters.  [In total] 280 passengers and 15 crew members have been killed.

The cynicism/savagery of Putin and his terrorists has no limits!  Europe, the United States, Canada, the civilized world -- open your eyes!  Help us all you can!  It is a war of good versus evil!

Here's a video of the crash site! Some scoundrels shouted "Beauty! Beautifully lit!"

Inhuman savages!

Svatoslav Tsegolko, the press secretary for Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko, comments:

Poroshenko thinks this of the plane that was brought down: it is not an incident, not a catastrophe, but a terrorist act.

Ria Novosti (Russian) quotes a source within a Ukrainian militia as denying a role in the attack.  They comment:

We're a militia.  We don't have those kinds of weapons.

It did not directly address the accusation that it was given Buk rocket launchers by Russia.  But Russian news agency Ria Novosti quoted Russian Intelligenc as claiming:

According to reconnaissance data, a Ukrainian army battalion of Buk air defense systems was deployed near Donetsk on Wednesday morning.

Indeed, one thing creating confusion is that both Russia (who backs the Eastern Ukranian separatist militias) and Ukraine both have Buk missile batteries.  The Buk air defense system was developed by the former Soviet Union in 1979.  It has been produced in both tracked and wheeled varieties.  In either form most variants are capable of launching 4 self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missiles.  The missiles can shoot down aircraft at altitudes of 14-25 km, depending on the model.

Buk M1-2
Buk M1-2 batteries (tracked) in 2010 [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

During the fall of the Soviet Union Russia retained the largest stock of the Buk batteries, but Ukraine and other separatist Soviet states also retained Buk launchers.

Buk M2
A wheeled Buk M2 [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, took a more cautious position, declining to cast blame on either side.  He remarks:

I’m deeply shocked by the dramatic reports about the crash of flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur above Ukrainian territory.

Many things are still unclear about the cause, the circumstances and the passengers. I just spoke with the Ukrainian President.

I’m now on my way to The Netherlands to further follow the situation from The Hague. Our thoughts go out to the people on board and their families and friends.

It is unclear if any Americans were onboard the doomed flight.

Reuters has posted dramatic photos of local firemen attempting to use water to cool the smolder wreckage.  Responders reportedly found burned bodies of passengers or crew on the site:

wreckage site

MH-17 wreckage (2 of 7)

MH-17 wreckage (3 of  7)

MH-17 wreckage (4 of 7)

MH-17 wreckage (5 of 7)

MH-17 wreckage (6 of 7)

MH-17 smoking wreckage
[Image Source: Reuters]

Reuters reporter Cassandra Garrison describes:

Dozens of bodies were scattered around the smoldering wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed in a field in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, a Reuters reporter said.

An emergency services rescue worker said at least 100 bodies had so far been found at the scene, near the village of Grabovo, and that debris from the wreckage was spread across an area up to about 15 km (nine miles) in diameter.

One mystery is how the aircraft end up by Donetsk.  No distress signals were reported, but it appears to have been well off its flight path, posted by Reuters.  The plane appears to have diverted 50-100 km off its original flight path, according to data from Flight Aware.  The diversion happened over central Poland.  The original path would have put it likely out of harm's way, flying over the Sea of Azov.  The new path put it tragically over the eastern Ukranian battlezone.

MH 17 crash

MH-17 intended route
USA Today shows that after the flight diverted slightly off the typical flight path (while headed over Poland), it's trajectory took it over Donetsk. [Image Source: USA Today]


According to the Twitter account FlightCrisis, maps of airplane traffic show other flights trying to make emergency diversions away from Eastern Ukraine. Subsequent posts show traffic successfully routed away from the dangerous region: The diversions are unlikely to affect U.S. flights.  American flights were ordered by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in March not to fly over Crimea, just south of the crash site.  The reason for this order was reportedly concerns over air traffic control.

However, security concerns may well have been present, as well.  USA Today claims that the government of Ukraine on Mar. 28 covered the Crimea area, the Sea of Asov, and the Black Sea with a no-fly zone extending to 29,000 feet (8.8 km).  MH-17 is believed to have been travelling just above this restricted zone.

(Further developments will be placed in other pieces.)

Sources: Interfax on Twitter [Translated], Ria Novosti, YouTube [1], [2]





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