Airline disaster over Ukraine: Where’s the black box?

Black box recorder may have been taken away from site

Until the black box is recovered, the world can only speculate about precisely what, and who, brought down the Malaysia Airlines aircraft over eastern Ukraine, experts say.

The Boeing 777 was carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, including 154 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 43 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 12 Indonesians and other passengers from the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada. The nationalities of 41 people are not yet confirmed.

The plane, which was flying at more than 30,000 feet (10,000m), did not make a distress call. With immediate effect, airlines began to avoid Ukrainian airspace, which for many carriers is the quickest route between Europe and Asia.

Both sides in Ukraine’s conflict are accusing the other of shooting the plane down with a missile. Pro-Russian separatists are understood to have captured a Ukrainian missile defence facility equipped with Buk systems. Media reports said the rebels planned to “defend the sky over Donetsk” using the missile system.

Social media sources attributed to the rebel forces in Donetsk said the separatists had shot down an An-26 Ukrainian transport plane and that there was “information about a second plane”. The post was later removed.

This is the second disaster suffered by Malaysia Airlines this year, following the tragedy of Flight MH370. Aviation experts are speculating as to whether the airline can survive. In aviation history there has not been an airline with two such major disasters in the span of four months.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the disaster today.

Confusion is growing as to what has happened to the black box flight recorder. News service Reuters quoted pro-Russian separatists that they had found one. Russian news sources said the black box had been sent to Moscow for investigation.

Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak: “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.”

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop: “We urge the separatists to co-operate. If they have taken the black box, they need to return it immediately.”

Airport security specialist and professor Norman Shanks told The Belfast Telegraph the black box could contain clues as to what kind of weapon brought the plane down. “This would almost certainly have to be a deliberate act, for whatever reason – we can only speculate,” Shanks said. “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.”

BBC / The Guardian / Reuters / Sydney Morning Herald


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