Airlines Warned About Ukrainian Airspace Before MH17 'Attack' But Continued As It Was 'Cheaper'

17/07/2014 17:57 | Updated 17 July 2014

Airlines had been warned to avoid the route over Ukraine because of the violence below, however many carriers continued to use it because it was shorter and therefore cheaper, according to aviation experts.

Almost 300 people have died including up to 10 Britons after a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was apparently shot down near the Russia - Ukraine border.

Flight MH17 - a Boeing 777-200ER travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur - was in transit over the war-torn region when it disappeared from radar screens.

Graphic images and footage showed a pall of smoke, charred wreckage and bodies at the crash scene in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine village of Grabovo.

debris mh17

A general view shows the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo


The Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine


A close-up of the debris from the Malaysia Airlines plane

But according to Norman Shanks, the former head of group security at airports group BAA, and professor of aviation security at Coventry University, the route would now likely be closed to commercial carriers.

He said: "It is a busy aviation route and there have been suggestions that a notice was given to aviators telling airlines to avoid that particular area. But Malaysia Airlines, like a number of other carriers, have been continuing to use it because it is a shorter route, which means less fuel and therefore less money. I expect the area will be declared a no fly zone and aircraft will have no choice but to take a different, longer route."

Prof Shanks said it was "extremely unusual" for political disputes to spill over and endanger the lives of civilians travelling in commercial flights in the skies above. And he suggested those behind the shooting "deliberately" targeted a passenger plane as it would have been obvious from its appearance that it was a commercial aircraft and posed no military threat.

He said: "This is probably the first time this has happened in recent history. The aircraft was flying at such a height that it is unlikely to have been a military aircraft. You would be able to tell it was a civilian aircraft not a military aircraft with the naked eye because of the jet plumes behind it.

"This would almost certainly have to be a deliberate act, for whatever reason - we can only speculate. It should have been quite visible to people on the ground that it was a civilian aircraft, by the size of it and the shape of it. Anyone who has looked at a civilian aircraft or large military aircraft will know the difference."


He said the plane's black box could contain vital clues to help piece together what the pilots knew during their final moments in the cockpit. But he warned that tracing the flight recorders could be very tricky as they are probably "now in a war zone" somewhere in the Ukraine. He added: "The pilots and passengers could well have been totally unaware that this missile was heading for them."

The suspected shooting down of a large passenger plane while flying at altitude presents airlines and their passengers with an extremely serious new development in air travel. They also question the future of Malaysia Airlines - caught in the global glare of bad publicity following the disappearance of flight MH 370 earlier this year.

If today's incident is confirmed as a deliberate act then Ukraine airspace could well be closed down, meaning diversions for UK carriers who currently fly to and over the area. "This could be a very serious development," said David Kaminski-Morrow, air transport editor of Flightglobal magazine.

He went on: "If reports are true, we are not talking about small-arm fire but serious weaponry. Normally even if planes fly over a war zone they can go high enough for the conflict not to be a worry. Any decision about the opening or closing of Ukranian airspace will be a matter for the Ukrainians. It could well be that part or all of that airspace will now be closed. Also, individual airlines, including UK carriers, could decide to detour around Ukraine."

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MH17 Malaysia Airline Plane

Mr Kaminski-Morrow continued: "It's really quite incredible that it should be Malaysia Airlines involved in this, after what happened earlier in the year. This is not a small airline on a faraway route. This was a major airline flying from a European destination to a capital in the Far East. There must be serious concerns about how the airline can recover from this. There will obviously be political as well as aviation concerns from all this. This will run and run."

Interfax news agency said the plane came down 20miles (50kms) short of entering Russian airspace. It "began to drop, afterwards it was found burning on the ground on Ukrainian territory," an unnamed source said.

Reuters quoted emergency service personnel at the scene who said body parts from the plane's passengers are scattered around up to 15km from the crash site, and at least 100 bodies were on the ground.

Andrew MacDonald, at defence analysts Vision Gain told HuffPost UK initial reports that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for downing the plane were "quite plausible".

He said: "Earlier today separatist fighters claimed to have shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 ground attack fighter in the area, so the goal may be to create a de-facto no-fly zone in the east of the country in a show of force after their ousting from Slovyansk.

"However, the aircraft will at that stage in its flight will have been cruising at a very high altitude – around 30,000 feet – so would have been well out of range of any shoulder-launched MANPADS weapons you might expect insurgent groups to possess.

07/25/2014 11:29 PM EDT

Document: EU Extends Russia Sanctions

A document shows that EU sanctions ar targeting Russian businesses, the AP reports:

A European Union document shows that among those targeted by the EU-wide asset freeze and travel ban are Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian Federal Security.

Also targeted is Sergei Beseda, head of the FSB service that oversees international operations and intelligence activity.

Read the full story here.

07/25/2014 5:21 PM EDT

AP Journalists Saw Rebels With BUK Missiles Hours Before MH17 Crashed

Associated Press journalists in Ukraine saw a BUK missile system -- the type that the US says downed Flight MH17 -- in rebel hands just hours before the plane was shot down, the news agency says in detailed account of the day's events. AP says that while the rebels officially deny responsibility, "the denials are increasingly challenged by accounts of residents, the observations of journalists on the ground, and the statements of one rebel official." Further, one rebel official told AP that they were behind the plane tragedy.

More from the AP story:

A highly placed rebel, speaking to the AP this week, admitted that rebels were responsible. He said a unit based in the hometown of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, made up of both Russians and Ukrainians, was involved in the firing of an SA-11 from near Snizhne. The rebel, who has direct access to the inner circle of the insurgent leadership in Donetsk, said that he could not be named because he was contradicting the rebels' official line.

The rebels believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane, this person said. Instead, they hit the passenger jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people aboard were killed.

Read the full account here.

07/25/2014 2:59 PM EDT

White House: Russia 'Culpable' For Downed Jet

In a briefing on Friday, the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said there has been a "steady flow" of weapons from Russia into Ukraine, and emphasized the position that Russia played a role in the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch reports.

The Pentagon said on Friday that the transfer of missile systems from Russia to separatists in Ukraine appeared to be imminent. On Thursday, the U.S. claimed that Russia had fired on Ukrainian military positions.

07/25/2014 1:54 PM EDT

Ukrainian Security Release Tape Of Rebels Allegedly Discussing MH17

Ukraine's security service, SBU, on Friday released a recording it said was of a phone call between pro-Russian separatists discussing a plane overhead, minutes before the Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down over east Ukraine. “I see… Roger... Report it upstairs,” the rebel commander says, according to a translation.

Writing for Mashable, Christopher Miller notes that the recording has not been authenticated and the commander "stops short of giving the order to shoot down Flight 17," however the implication is clearly to build a case that the rebels shot down the plane.

07/25/2014 1:14 PM EDT

Russia Accuses U.S. Of 'Smear Campaign' Over Ukraine

Responding to U.S. officials assertion that Russia was firing artillery on Ukrainian military positions across the border, Russia on Friday countered by calling the claim a baseless "smear campaign,"AFP reports.

A statement from the Russian foreign ministry said, "Due to the smear campaign against us that the US Administration has begun... we reject the unfounded public insinuations that US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is spreading on a daily basis," adding that Harf has used "a basketful of these anti-Russian cliches," to influence perceptions of Russia. The statement refuted the U.S. State Departments claim on Russia targeting Ukraine military, saying "There are no facts or specifics about these falsehoods."

More from AFP.

-- Andrew Hart

07/25/2014 1:06 PM EDT

U.S. Ambassador: 15,000 Russian Troops At Border

07/25/2014 12:58 PM EDT

More On The Remarks Out Of The Pentagon

Reuters reports:

The Pentagon said on Friday the transfer of heavy caliber multiple launch rocket systems from

Russia to Ukrainian separatists appeared to be imminent, with the arms close enough to the border they could be handed over "potentially today."

"We have indications that the Russians intend to supply heavier and more sophisticated multiple launch rocket systems in the very near future," said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that the weapons were in the over-200mm range.

Warren indicated the weapons had been seen getting closer to the border and the Pentagon believed a transfer was imminent and "potentially today."

"We believe that they are able to transfer this equipment at any time, at any moment," he said.

07/25/2014 12:45 PM EDT

Pentagon Says Russia Is Readying Weapons For Transfer To Ukraine Rebels

07/25/2014 11:34 AM EDT

Australia To Send 100 Additional Police and Personnel To Secure Crash Site

Reuters reports:

(Reuters) - Australia will send 100 additional police and some defense force personnel to Europe to join a planned Dutch-led international security force to secure the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers, some of whom will be armed, will join a contingent of 90 AFP officers already in London waiting for a deal with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to be approved by Ukraine's parliament.

"This is a humanitarian mission, with a clear and simple objective," Abbott told reporters. "I expect the operation on the ground in Ukraine, should the deployment go ahead, to last no longer than a few weeks."

Read the full story here.

07/25/2014 11:03 AM EDT

Russian Newspaper Runs Front Page Apology For MH17

A leading Russian newspaper has issued an apology on its front page, asking for forgiveness from the people of the Netherlands who lost their loved ones in the Malaysian Airlines plane crash. The front page of Novaya Gazeta on Friday featured the words "Vergeef ons, Nederlands" (Forgive Us, Netherlands) in bold above a heartbreaking image of the line of hearses carrying MH17 victim's bodies.

Read the full story on the Huffington Post here.

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