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'Possible to determine trajectory of missile if Malaysian plane hit' - aviation experts

Published time: July 18, 2014 13:28
The crash site of the Malaysian Boeing 777 outside Shakhtyorsk, Donetsk Region (RIA Novosti)

Images from US, Russian or European satellites can show quite clearly where the missile came from and its trajectory to meeting up with the aircraft, pilot and former air traffic controller Desmond Ross told RT.

RT: So we've heard that there is only one weapons system in the area, the so-called Buk rocket launcher, that's capable of hitting an aircraft at such a high altitude. Is that where your suspicions lie?

Desmond Ross: The media reporting that I have seen today seems to indicate with some certainty that it was a missile. My initial thoughts were that it could possibly be a bomb on the aircraft, but when you look at some of the footage images that have been streamed around the world at the moment it does not appear to be the case.

Pilot and aviation expert Richard Woodward on airplane tragedy: “You have to have a very sophisticated missile system which is on a tracked vehicle or a track, and it's got its own radar and command and control vehicle etc. It implies a sophisticated system run by trained personnel and a lot of them weren't there.”

It appears that it has been hit by something externally, and the aircraft is broken up accordingly. It seems that is has broken up and exploded at a high altitude very quickly, there is no sign of fire.

RT: What about satellites or other modern detection systems? Can they provide some answers?

DR: I’m quite confident that such records probably do exist from the satellites, particularly in that part of the world which is under significant surveillance by many authorities and many governments at this moment of time. I would be fully expecting that somebody, whether the US or Russia or some European power, would have some satellite imaging that will show quite clearly where the missile came from and its trajectory to meeting up with the aircraft.

RT: We are getting reports that a second black box has been recovered. How can those devices help discover the nature of the attack?

DR: The so-called mythical black box, they are actually orange, for one thing, but the first one is the cockpit voice recorder which records the last two hours of all communications and all conversations in the cockpit. Those two hours leading up to the final moments should give us a very good indication of what was going on and may even tell us the pilots knew nothing whatsoever about what happened. The second box is the flight data recorder that is usually located in the tail of the aircraft and records all the parameters of the aircraft’s flight and its control settings, basically everything we might need to know about the way in which the aircraft was operating. That needs to be analyzed by a specialist in a laboratory to get maximum value from it and that will give us a very clear indication of precisely what happened in the last moments.

Debris is seen at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

“There is no warning capability in their aircraft to see you are being tracked by a missile system because the view from the cockpit of the aircraft is quite limited if the missile came from behind you would never see it. If it came from right in front of you in the middle of the day you may see it, but as you said it's traveling at a very high speed, so it's highly unlikely,” Richard Woodward told RT.

RT: The graphic images we've been airing appear show bodies that seem relatively undamaged after falling from as high as 10 kilometers. How can you explain that?

DR: Frankly, there are a couple of things that I find a little bit curious about the images that I have been seeing on the television. When the aircraft was hit, it would have depressurized more or less immediately if there was a large hole blown in the fuselage or some part of the fuselage would have split open. That means that the air pressure inside the cabin would have gone from nominal 8,000 feet above the sea level, which is normal setting would be comfortable to passengers, to 33,000 feet. A sudden decompression would have been quite calamitous; people would have very few seconds of consciousness before they passed out due to the lack of oxygen. Interesting that they might be quite intact, one would be expecting them to show some signs of damage. The other thing that I find really interesting is the collection of passports which are being shown on television; all of them appear to be very clean and almost brand new. They have been collected obviously very quickly from pockets and suitcases perhaps. So there are some interesting aspects to the whole thing which will hopefully come out if the investigation is conducted professionally and properly.

RT: Why the flight route was going through the war zone? Who determines it?

DR: For every flight that departs from any airport to another the flight path is determined shortly before the flight according a combination of factors, which includes the winds, the airlines are always seeking most efficient altitude at which to fly with the best winds that will take them to the destination as quickly as possible to save some fuel which is one of the major costs for the airlines. The pilots and the operation personnel would have looked at all of this basic information and the flight might have been a little bit to the north, a little bit to the south, slightly different from any normal flight. That is not unusual at all. If they chose to do a proper thorough risk assessment of the airspace that it was flying through they may have thought for one reason or information that they had that it would be better to go a little further north or south. I don’t find it particularly unusual; it would have been determined by the operation staff and the pilots prior to departure.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.