Updated It has taken a day longer than most observers expected for reports as to what was learned from MH17’s ‘black box’ flight recorders to leak out, and it is no surprise that they are claimed to confirm that Malaysia Airlines 777 and the 298 people on board were brought down by a missile warhead explosion.
There were numerous confronting images circulated by internet in the days after the atrocity showing obvious signs of shrapnel puncture of sections of the fuselage.
While Ukraine officials have released their summary of some of the flight recorder information as read out by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, there have been no detailed response to this from the Netherlands led independant disaster investigation.
There is no reliable word yet as to what one of the devices, the cockpit sound recorder, picked up in relation to pilot interaction with Ukraine air traffic control. Instead there has only been a flurry of stories about a day ago suggesting that because of the age of the black boxes, not all data might be recovered in the desired or anticipated form.
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The question needs to be kept in mind, who spread those earlier reports, and what was the motive, if in fact they are part of an attempted message management strategy?
The Netherlands led independent air accident investigation will, if it follows the protocols of ICAO, the UN backed International Civil Aviation Organisation, issue a preliminary or interim report within a month of the 17 July disaster that destroyed MH17 and all on board.
There have been numerous ‘wild’ and unsubstantiated claims made about alleged Ukraine military jets in the air near MH17. However MH17 was flying over an active war zone in which military aircraft were in use by Ukraine and the Russia backed separatists controlling eastern Ukraine around Donetsk, over which supposedly safe and well run airlines were exposing their passengers to grave risk by going along with the fiction that flying at or above 33,000 feet made them missile proof.
Those claims about other military jets might thus be true in part or in full, and they are hardly surprising.
The Australian ‘Bring them home’ operation for the 38 national or Australian resident victims of the atrocity has run hard up against the military priorities of Ukraine in that several attempts to access the widespread crash sites have been thwarted by what has become a ground war zone in the fields, woods and villages in which the wreckage of MH17 and those onboard fell to earth.
The frustration is apparent in the restrained interviews given by Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop. However sorry Ukraine is concerning the tragedy, the armed struggle between it and the pro Russia forces is what really matters. It isn’t clear when the unarmed members of a large Australian Federal Police contingent will be able to access the wreckage sites or comb the fields.
But the dead are impatient, it is summer, and it is 12 days since they died. Not all of them will be found and identified and repatriated to their countries of origin. For their loved ones, this is terribly distressing. Australia and the Netherlands are doing their utmost to bring dignity and certainty to the process, but the brutal imperatives of war have intervened, and no one knows when full on site work on the separate air disaster investigation, and the victim recovery efforts, will become possible.