While it's obvious Malaysia Airlines has learned from its communication errors in the wake of the disappearance of MH370 earlier this year, it's tragic they must now exercise their new, far more transparent news-sharing policy, in this way.
Until the wreckage is recovered, examined, and official international agencies have their say on this, here is what we know about MH17:
· The AP reports that Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said on his Facebook page (hmm) that "the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet). He also said it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet)." The article then reports that Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, was quick to say that his forces weren't the ones to shoot down the plane.
· The aircraft involved is tail number 9M-MRD, a Boeing 777-200ER, the same plane type as MH370, which was tail number 9M-MRO. That's about the only similarity thus far between the incidents. MH370 was lost while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and search is now concentrated in the Indian Ocean, off Australia's west coast.
· Flight tracking websites such as FlightRadar24 show that the aircraft flew from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam the day prior, July 16, without incident, and departed again today for Kuala Lumpur with a 30-minute delay.
· While the crisis in the Ukraine is an active war zone as fighting rages between Ukrainians and pro-Russian rebels, the track flown by MH17 is a valid international air route between Europe and Asia, a "skyway," if you will. Either the aircraft was behaving suspiciously enough to alarm factions on the ground, or the missile launcher was trigger-happy. Regardless, catastrophic mistakes were made on one or both ends.
· Naturally, Wikipedia has a listing of airline shoot down incidents, including both Korean Air 7 and Iran Air 655, which were shot down over 20 years ago.
· A temporary flight restriction (NOTAM) has been issued by the FAA, for all US aircraft to stay clear of the disputed region, no matter their altitude. International airlines like Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and Air France are making the independent decision to re-route their flights through less contentious air space.
· Photos emerging on social media should be taken with a grain of salt. A Ukrainian transport plane recently crashed in the area as well, and images may be confused.
· The last known photo of the aircraft was taken by Dutch planespotter Tom Warners as it took off from Amsterdam. Warners tweeted it from his @SchipholSpot twitter account:
Here is my picture of Malaysia Airlines 9M-MRD taking off from Schiphol today. My thoughts are with pax and crew. pic.twitter.com/zuILsQCzy6— Tom Warners (@SchipholSpot) July 17, 2014
[Photos: Aero Icarus, FlightRadar24]