Why Tragedy befell Malaysian Airline over Ukraine?Posted: July 17, 2014
On Thursday 16 July 2014, a Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine by militants killing all 295 people aboard. Passengers included 23 US citizens. This is the second tragedy involving Malaysian airlines this year. On 8 March this year Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared mysteriously. The Boeing 777 was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew. Despite massive international efforts no clue was found of the plane carrying mostly Chinese passengers. The MH-17 flight flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down by a ground-to-air missile near the city of Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels. The plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters, a typical cruising altitude for airliners, when it came down at Torez, near Shakhtersk, some 40 km (25 miles) from the Russian border. The area has been the scene of fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels. Ukraine has earlier accused Russia of shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. An accusation that Moscow denied. This has not been the first incident of a commercial airliner being shot down intentionally. On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight KAL 007 flying from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage was shot down by a Soviet Su15 interceptor near Moneron Island, west of Sakhalin Island, in the Sea of Japan. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including a US congressman. The aircraft had flown through prohibited Soviet airspace around the time of a US reconnaissance mission. The Soviet Union initially denied knowledge of the incident, but later admitted the shoot down, claiming that the aircraft was on a spy mission. The Soviet Politburo said it was a deliberate provocation by the US to test the Soviet Union’s military preparedness, or even to provoke a war. The White House accused the Soviet Union of obstructing search and rescue operations and suppressing evidence sought by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigations, notably the flight data recorders. This information was eventually released eight years later after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The incident hiked the tensions of the Cold War. The opposing points of view on the incident were never fully resolved. Several groups continued to dispute official reports and offer alternative theories of the event. The subsequent release of KAL 007 flight transcripts and flight recorders by the Russian Federation has clarified some details. As a result of the incident, the US altered tracking procedures for aircraft departing Alaska. The interface of the autopilot used on airliners was redesigned to make it more ergonomic. In addition, the event was one of the most important single events that prompted the Reagan Administration to allow worldwide access to the US military’s classified GNSS system, which was at the time. Today this system is widely known as GPS. On 3 July 1988 Iran Air Flight 655 from Tehran to Dubai was shot down by the US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. The attack took place in Iranian airspace, over Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight’s usual flight path. The aircraft, an Airbus A300 B2-203, was destroyed by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from the Vincennes. All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, died. This attack ranks ninth among the deadliest disasters in aviation history, the incident retains the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Persian Gulf and the highest death toll of any incident involving an Airbus aircraft anywhere in the world. The Vincennes had entered Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits. According to the Iranian government, Vincennes negligently shot down the civilian aircraft: the airliner was making IFF squawks in Mode III (not Mode II used by Iranian military planes), a signal that identified it as a civilian craft, and operators of Vincennes mistook for Mode II. According to the US Government, the crew incorrectly identified the Iranian Airbus A300 as an attacking F14 Tomcat fighter of the Iranian air force. The event generated a great deal of controversy and criticism of the US. Some analysts have blamed US military commanders and the captain of Vincennes for reckless and aggressive behavior in a tense and dangerous environment. In 1996, the governments of US and Iran reached “an agreement in full and final settlement of all disputes, differences, claims, counterclaims” relating to the incident at the International Court of Justice. As part of the settlement, the US agreed to pay US$61.8 million, an average of $213,103.45 per passenger, in compensation to the families of the Iranian victims. However, the US has never admitted responsibility, nor apologized to Iran. To this day, Iran Air still uses flight number IR655 on the Tehran–Dubai route as a memorial to the victims, contrary to the informal convention amongst many other airlines that discontinue flight numbers associated with tragedies. Now what could have possibly led to the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, near the Russian border? It could have been the case of mistaken identity. The Airline could have been flying unwittingly close to a military concentration. Being conflict zone a shaky commander could have ordered it to be shot down. One thing is clear, however, most airlines would stop flying over Ukrainian airspace and more importantly the US will use the incident to levy more sanctions against the Russians for the involvement in Ukraine and for causing the secession of Crimea.