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Published On: Fri, Jul 7th, 2017

Malaysia Airlines MH17: Airliners have Black Boxes to keep the public in the dark

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : In mid-May 2016 Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said investigators had narrowed the list of suspects in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 on flight MH-17 from the Netherlands to Malaysia down to about 100 persons. The trial will eventually be held in the Netherlands, but non experts also note that nobody will stand trial for the downing of the airliner that flew over an area where a conflict was known to be in progress in 2014 any time soon. Flight MH17 was one out of four airliners that crashed or disappeared while flying over an area with conflict or military exercises in progress within four years.  

MH17_Ukraine_malaysia-NEOThe Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reiterated that it pans to help investigate the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 on flight MH17 on July 17, 2014. The plane crashed in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region after it was shot down. All 298 passengers and crew on board perished. On July 6, 2017 the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office published a statement on its website saying:

“Members of the Joint Criminal Investigation Team, which is investigating the air crash, has made a decision that further criminal prosecution of those guilty in this tragedy will take part in a court in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In turn, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office will continue to provide vast assistance in the investigation of this case and its court proceedings.”

The Joint Criminal Investigation Team was set up in 2014 by law enforcement agencies of Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Ukraine in order to investigate the criminal aspects of the downing of the airliner. The Joint Investigation Team is comprised of prosecutors and law enforcement officials from these five countries as well as from the European Union. The JIT presented its findings on September 28, 2016. In its report it was, among others stated:

 “The JIT concluded that MH17 was downed by a rocket, Series 9M38 launched from a self-propelled ground-based missile launcher BUK-TELAR in a farming area in the region of Pervomaiske village. The area is currently held by Russian-backed separatists. Investigators said the missile complex was delivered to Ukraine from the Russian Federation nd returned there after the downing.”

MH17_FDR_Donetsk_Ukraine_NEOMeanwhile, the political positioning about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. Muddying the waters appears to be as much part of the discourse as Dutch Rolls while non of the involved parties has yet provided the bereft families, their legal representatives or independent media with certified, independently testable evidence. Many of the fundamentals of the criminal investigation by the JIT are based on the air crash investigation that was led by the Dutch safety Board.

In October 2015 the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that it planned to ask The Netherlands to resume the investigation into the crash of MAS Flight MH17. During a press conference held on the day of the release of the Dutch Safety Board’s (DSB) Final Report, DSB Chairman Tibbe Joustra stated that the DSB would continue investigating the crash but that it was very unlikely that additional data would change the conclusions reached by the DSB-led investigative team that included investigators from Australia, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, The United States, Ukraine and Russia.

Joustra addressed the press, saying that the warhead that exploded outside the left side of the airliner’s cockpit was of the 9NC14N type that is installed on a BUK Surface to Air Missile system. DSB Chairman Tibbe Joustra said that:

“As a result of the detonation the forward part of the airplane was torn off. The airplane broke up in the air. The wreckage came down in an area of about 50 kilometers in the eastern part of Ukraine. The missile was launched from a 320 square kilometer area in the eastern part of Ukraine.”

Tibbe Joustra, Dutch Safety Board

Tibbe Joustra, Dutch Safety Board

Joustra noted that 61 operators from 32 countries flew over the eastern part of Ukraine in the period between July 14 and July 17 2014, where an armed conflict was taking place. Malaysian Airlines was one of these operators. Joustra added that:

“On the day of the crash a total of 160 flights had operated above the area until the airspace was closed after the crash. Non of the aviation parties involved recognized the risks posed to civil aviation by the armed conflict on the ground. In the opinion of the Dutch Safety Board there was sufficient reason to close the airspace above the eastern part of the Ukraine as a precaution. The Ukrainian authorities failed to do so.”

Flight MH17 was scheduled to fly from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Joustra continued, saying:

“We also caught ourselves asking why the airplane was flying over an area where an armed conflict was in progress. That is why, one day after the crash, three of our investigators traveled to Kiev. In the end dozens of investigators ended up contributing to the investigations conducted by the Dutch Safety Board. 

Provided by Russian Ministry of Defense. Buk missile launcher no longer present after MH17 crash.

Provided by Russian Ministry of Defense. Buk missile launcher no longer present after MH17 crash. (Click on image to enlarge)

The Russian arms manufacturer and manufacturer of the BUK missile system, Almaz-Antey, for its part, held a press conference, stating that the report issued by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) misrepresents the data that were provided by the arms manufacturer. Among the points of contention are the location of the area from where the Buk missile had been fired as well as the specific type of missile and warhead. Almaz-Antey would state that:

“A chart with a map given in the report designates the presumed area of the antiaircraft missile launch from a Buk air defense system according to the international technical commission’s version. This version was adopted by the company’s specialists as the initial conditions during preparations for the second part of a full-scale experiment with the explosion of the 9M38M1 missile near the fuselage of an Il-86 airliner and was convincingly rejected as part of the same experiment.”

Earlier in October 2015 the Russian Presidency issued a statement, saying that it had nothing to add to the conclusions reached by Almaz-Antey. Importantly, Almaz-Antey is pursuing a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice, claiming that the company suffered a loss of reputation by being misrepresented and an economic loss due to unjustified sanctions.

Provided by Russian Ministry of Defense

Provided by Russian Ministry of Defense (Click on image to enlarge)

Another important factor is that the Dutch Safety Board was not tasked with identifying who exactly launched the missile and who eventually had command responsibility, which is part of a separate criminal investigation. On Friday the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that:

“Russia, on its part, plans to ask the Dutch Safety Board to resume the investigation into the MH17 crash. If the Netherlands expresses readiness to take part in the discussion of the course and results of our investigation, we are prepared to organize such work.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement came after Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders gave an interview to BNR radio where Koenders stated that Russia was too critical about the results of the investigation and that Russia was “muddying the waters”.

The DSB report concluded that the missile was launched from a 320 square kilometer area in eastern Ukraine and that the missile exploded on the plane’s left side, near the cockpit.

Almaz-Antey, for its part, stated that full-scale experiments led to the conclusion that the Boeing 777-200 was shot down by the older 9M38 type of the BUK missile whose manufacture stopped in 1986. Such missiles are no longer in use by any Russian forces. Russian experts would, however, conclude that this type of missile “still may be in use” within Ukraine’s armed forces. Considering this, others would conclude that both the DPR or LPR self-defense forces and the Ukrainian military “still may have had such a missile”.

Almaz-Antey, however, concluded that the missile had been launched from Zaroshchenskoye, which was controlled by Ukrainian armed forces on the day of the fatal crash. Almaz-Antey would note that the 320 square kilometer area used in the DSB’s report was valid only before the company conducted the full-scale test that identified Zaroshchenskoye as the area from where the missile had been launched.

The disputes about the exact location of the launcher, as well as about the model of missile continue until today. Likewise, Russia provided radar data that is supposed to show that a Ukrainian jet may have flown close to the airliner. Ironically, a Ukrainian Su-25 having used the Boeing 777-200 as cover could as well explain an accidental shoot down by Donbass “rebels” as it could explain the alleged fire that some claim was opened from the SU-25. If anything is really “muddying the waters” it is the fact that “absolutely none of the involved parties have yet made any independently testable evidence available to independent media.”

Several members of bereft families have stressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that no independently testable evidence has been made available to them as well as to media. Families express that they are the playing-ball of geopolitical and economic games, having to rely on either the DSB or a non-transparent criminal investigation. Among the demands families utter is the release of the flight data recorder data, the recordings from the cockpit voice recorder, recordings from air traffic controllers, radar data and other independently testable evidence.

Dutch Safety Board_DSB_The Netherlandsnsnbc international has since the downing of the Boeing 777-200 on July 17, 2014 attempted to acquire access to such data. The investigation resulted in a statement from the Dutch Safety Board that implied that all those countries that delegated investigators to the DSB-led investigation, that is Australia, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, The United States, Malaysia, Ukraine and Russia implicitly have agreed to the terms of the Dutch Kingdom Act that exempts DSB investigation evidence other than a final report from the Dutch Open Government Act.

In other words, the bereft families and investigative journalists will continue to be held in the dark unless the respective governments begin to do what would be ethically correct – release certified copies of independently testable evidence including flight data recorder data, cockpit voice reorder data, radar data, air traffic control data and more to the bereft families and media. Alternatively, one can only appeal to the integrity of those who have access to the data to do what would be ethically correct, even though it may be in violation of the law – to blow the whistle.

4 airliners downed over areas with military conflicts or exercises known to be in progress in 2 years

MH17_DSB_WreckageThe case of MH17 and the highly politically charged “investigations” may merely be the tip of an ice berg and a much greater scandal may be looming under the surface, rarely mentioned and unseen because no other media other than nsnbc ever mentioned it. MH17 is merely one out of four airliners that crashed or disappeared while flying over an area where a military conflict or exercise was known to be in progress within two years.

Three years after the downing of Malaysian Airlines on Flight MH17 in Ukraine, statistics show that four airliners disappeared or crashed in a two-year period, while flying above an area with military exercises or conflict in progress. Meanwhile, the next of kin, the global flying public and journalists are kept in the dark and are denied access to independently verifiable evidence.

Ukraine_MH17_passenger seats_NEOThree years ago the Boeing 777-200 on flight MH17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine. Geopolitical chess games over the tragedy continue while the next of kin and journalists have been denied access to independently verifiable information. Not providing other “evidence” than “final reports” is consistent with current ICAO regulations.

Moreover, all of the countries who delegated investigators to the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) led investigation agreed to comply with the Dutch Kingdom Act that exempts DSB evidence other than final reports from the Netherlands’ “Open Government Act”, equivalent to the US’ Freedom Of Information Act.

While Malaysia, the USA, Russia, and others continue to use the tragedy for political positioning games, all have agreed not to disclose evidence. Ironically, the argument for the current ICAO regulations is that the ICAO wants to prevent premature speculations and the political use of air safety and air crash investigations.

Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crashed while Flying over an Area with a Conflict in Progress
Source: screenshot images from FlightAware.com - In the days up to the downing, MH17 flew progressively closer to the disputed Donbas region - some say foul play may have been involved, other speculate that the crisis in Crimea may have informed the change of flight path. No one will ever really know without full transparency.

Source: screenshot images from FlightAware.com – In the days up to the downing, MH17 flew progressively closer to the disputed Donbas region – some say foul play may have been involved, other speculate that the crisis in Crimea may have informed the change of flight path. No one will ever really know without full transparency. Fact is, MH17 flew, like hundreds of others, over an area with conflict in progress.

The most important conclusion after the MH17 tragedy was that the plane was brought down while it was flying over an area where a conflict was known to be in progress. During a press conference held on the day of the release of the Dutch Safety Board’s (DSB) Final Report, DSB Chairman Tibbe Joustra stated:

“As a result of the detonation the forward part of the airplane was torn off. The airplane broke up in the air. The wreckage came down in an area of about 50 kilometers in the eastern part of Ukraine. The missile was launched from a 320 square kilometer area in the eastern part of Ukraine.”

Joustra noted that 61 operators from 32 countries flew over the eastern part of Ukraine in the period between July 14 and July 17 2014, where an armed conflict was taking place. Malaysian Airlines was one of these operators. Joustra added that: (emphasis added)

“On the day of the crash a total of 160 flights had operated above the area until the airspace was closed after the crash. Non of the aviation parties involved recognized the risks posed to civil aviation by the armed conflict on the ground. In the opinion of the Dutch Safety Board there was sufficient reason to close the airspace above the eastern part of the Ukraine as a precaution. The Ukrainian authorities failed to do so.”

Malaysia Airlines MH370 “Disappeared” above an Area with a Military Exercise in Progress
Kuala Lumpur Airport. Getting used to "Missing Links"?  Courtesy AAP, Newzulu Safiyan Salim.

Kuala Lumpur Airport. Getting used to “Missing Links”? Courtesy AAP, Newzulu Safiyan Salim.

The crash of flight MH17 came only two months after Malaysia Airlines on Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared. The last reported contact between the flight crew and air traffic control was allegedly recorded as the Boeing 777-200 was leaving Malaysian controlled airspace, entering a region where an international military exercise was in progress.

Two years after this tragedy, the next of kin, represented by Voice370, protest against Malaysia’s plans to end the search for the disappeared airliner. As in the case with Flight MH17, no independently verifiable evidence that would stand in a court of law was made available to investigative journalists. Citing ICAO regulations, the next of kin, the global flying public and journalists have to rely on a “final report”.

Kogalmaviya (Metrojet) Flight KGL9268 Crashed in Northern Sinai, an Area with a Conflict in Progress

KGL9268 wreckage_Egypt_North SinaiOn October 31, as Russia was entering the war theater in Syria, a Russian Airbus A320 operated by Kogalmaviya (Metrojet) crashed in Egypt’s North Sinai province.

The plane was en route from the Egyptian holiday resort Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, Russia. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) claimed responsibility for having brought down the airliner.

The Egyptian government initially denied that terrorism could have been involved. The Russian government rushed to conclude that terrorism had been involved.

Speculation and misrepresentation retraumatises the bereft. Full transparency is the best antidote against speculation. Photo courtesy of Tass, Sergey Konkov.

Speculation and misrepresentation retraumatises the bereft. Full transparency is the best antidote against speculation. Photo courtesy of Tass, Sergey Konkov.

Later on, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi would tentatively state that terrorism had probably been involved.

Flight KGL9268 was flying above an area in Egypt’s North Sinai province where a conflict between the Egyptian military and Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State linked insurgents was in progress.

As in the other incidents, mentioned above, no independently verifiable evidence that would stand in a court of law was made available to the next of kin and investigative journalists.

Egypt Air Flight MS804 Crashed while Flying above Area with USAFRICOM – led Military Exercise in Progress

In May 2016 an Airbus A320 operated by Egypt Air crashed on Flight MS804 from Paris, France, to Cairo, Egypt. The airliner crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

Egyptian investigators informed media that the cockpit voice recorder that had been “repaired in France” indicated that there possibly was a fire on board the plane.

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) of the Egypt Air Airbus A320 were retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea on June 17-18, 2016. The airliner on flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo vanished from radar early on May 19.

Pilots of EgyptAir flight MS804

Pilots of EgyptAir flight MS804

On June 22 Egyptian officials reported that retrieving data from the CVR and FDR would take time because the recorders had been submerged in saltwater for a long time. On July 2, Egyptian government sources reported that:

“Extensive examinations that were carried out at the French Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau; on the electronic board components of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the A320 showed that none of the memory chips of the electronic board was damaged. However, some other supportive components associated with the communication and from the memory chips had to be removed and replaced with new ones, whereas advanced high technology will be used to extract the recordings from these units. After the replacement of the CVR board components, test results were satisfactory as it enabled the reading of the CVR memory unit”.

The Egyptian Investigation Committee reports that its members are planning to return back to Cairo with “the fixed boards to continue reading and analyzing the FDR and CVR at the central department for aircraft accidents at the Ministry of Civil Aviation”.

Official government sources also report that “Collecting human remains continues according to planned standard procedures”. Meanwhile, official sources also reported that “Death certificates were now being issued to the next of kin of the 66 passengers and crew who perished on board of the airliner”.

The Black Box – Next of Kin, Flying Public and Journalists Kept in the Dark

So far all of nsnbc’s attempts to attain a passenger list and cargo manifest from Egypt Air remained unanswered. Releasing passenger lists to the media and to the public is normal procedure after all next of kin have been informed. Egypt Air’s failure to even respond to inquiries raises red flags. It is also noteworthy that it is a small independent newspaper like nsnbc that takes it upon itself to use money on the attempt to acquire evidence while almost all well-financed major media appear to feel content with regurgitating press releases and official statements.

USAFRICOM Phoenix Express 2016 PR photo.

USAFRICOM Phoenix Express 2016 PR photo.

This is especially so because the Airbus A320 was flying across an area in the Mediterranean Sea where a USAFRICOM-led military exercise was in progress. Meanwhile, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards prescribe that only final reports from air crash investigations will be made available to the next of kin, the public and the press. The practice was in part implemented so as to “prevent premature scapegoating” after air disasters.

Next of kin, the global flying public and media will usually be left with no other option than to blindly believe that “authorities tell the truth”, or to protest and demand full disclosure. Calls for disclosure are consistently being ignored.

Four major air disasters correlated to conflict or military exercises in little more than two years. The development resulted in growing concerns about whether or not the ICAO regulations that are in use today need to be revised, so that independently testable evidence must be made available to the next of kin and independent journalists.

This would, as a minimum requirement have to include certified passenger and cargo manifests, certified copies of CVR and FDR data, radar data, and certified audio copies (not transcripts) of communications between the airliner and air traffic control. In the absence of independently testable evidence, “alleging or reporting” what data a “Black Box” contains translates into keeping the next of kin and the global flying public “in the dark”.

Airliners don't have "black boxes" to keep the public in the dark, or do they?

Airliners don’t have “black boxes” to keep the public in the dark, or do they?

In a recent Op-Ed entitled “The persisting mystery of MH370″ K.S. Narendran whose wife, Chandrika Sharma, was on MH370 stressed that:

It is time for air passengers from various nationalities: parliamentarians, industry captains, non-profit organisations, self-employed, artists… people from all walks of life, to urge the ICAO through their country’s representative to accord due priority to this issue in the larger public interest.

While it is easy to be lulled by the thought that air travel is the safest mode of travel because deaths per million passenger miles is the lowest, these mean nothing when you consider the prospect that it might be you who goes missing when the next time a plane is allowed to vanish into thin air.

After four airliners disappeared or crashed within a little more than two years while flying above areas with conflict or military exercises in progress, Narendran’s appeal for transparency has universal validity and concerns all air disasters. nsnbc also appeals to anyone who has access to verifiable evidence that is being withheld to do what appears to be ethically correct and to contact us.

CH/L – nsnbc 07.07.2017

nsnbc telephone: +45 71 486 488

nsnbc Skype: nsnbc.international

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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