MH17 – Preliminary report leaves most conspiracy theories intact


Click on image above, or link below, to download report

I downloaded the official Preliminary report of the MH17 crash in east Ukraine last night. I must say that although the report appears comprehensive as far as it goes – it doesn’t go far. Certainly nowhere near answering the questions everyone has about this tragedy.

It does rule out pilot error or technical malfunction. But we are almost as much in the dark  about causes as we were on July 17 when the plane crashed. Except, perhaps, the evidence does not fit with an on-board bomb or other explosion. Believers in any of the other causes or conspiracy theories will all claim support from this report.

High-energy objects

The report concludes:

Based on the preliminary findings to date, no indications of any technical or operational issues were found with the aircraft or crew prior to the ending of the CVR [Cockpit Voice Recorder] and FOR [Flight data Recorder] recording at 13.20:03 hrs.

The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft. It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.

This is consistent with either of the major hypotheses:

  1. The plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile launched by armed forces of the Kiev government, the Russian Federation or the opposition pro-autonomy militias.
  2. The plane was downed by an air-to-air missile launched by a Ukrainian or Russian plane (or planes).
  3. The plane was downed by cannon and/or machine gun fire  from a Ukrainian or Russian plane (or planes).

The “high-energy objects” could be shrapnel from a missile (these are designed to explode at a distance from the target and spray it with shrapnel) or bullets. The report concludes the objects came from outside the aircraft but does not help identify their origin or nature.

The intriguing question of the damage being caused by bullets and not (or as well as) shrapnel will have to await more detailed analysis of the wreckage. So far fighting in the area has prevented a complete examination of the wreckage or its movement to a safe area for reconstruction. However, there are many high resolution photographs available on the internet which have been used to support all of the above hypotheses.

Let’s hope the current cease-fire will enable investigators to return to the crash site.




Radar evidence

I found discussion of the Air Traffic Control surveillance data unsatisfying. It says:

For this investigation ATC surveillance data was obtained from both Ukraine (UkSATSE) D and the Russian Federation. The data obtained was the following:

  • Primary surveillance radar recorded by the Russian surveillance aids

  • Secondary surveillance radar (SSR / Mode S)

  • Automatic Dependant Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) ground based reception.

Unfortunately the second two systems only check commercial aircraft. The primary surveillance data from the Russian Federation will be critical as when first released it indicated the presence of a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH17 at the time of the crash. The preliminary report only discusses the 3 commercial airliners nearby at the time.

However, the report says that analysis of the surveillance data “is ongoing.” Hopefully the investigation team will be able to get the equivalent primary surveillance radar data from the Kiev government for this. So far Kiev has refused to make this information public and the report does not mention getting it.


This is an important preliminary report which at least confirms the aircraft was down by accidental or intentional attack. It gives absolutely no help in identifying the source of the attack and is therefore miles behind various unofficial on-line reports advancing various scenarios. So the Dutch Safety Board Report is very unsatisfying to anyone who has followed the on-line discussions.

We will now have to with another year for the final report. Although, given the political sensitivities which are likely to be involved and the requirement of feedback from various governments on reported findings, I would not be at all surprised if that takes even longer. I suspect such sensitivities may have been the reason for the delay in this preliminary report.

Meanwhile, I urge interested readers to download the preliminary report and read it for themselves. Its less than 34 pages can be read very quickly.

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10 responses to “MH17 – Preliminary report leaves most conspiracy theories intact

  1. While talking about Boeings, workers building the B787 say they would not fly on it. The merger of Boeing and McConnell Douglas is said to have reduced standards and intoxicated workers may be working. I think Al Jazeera has a program on it at 8am (NZ time) tomorrow. Air NZ has the first B787-9 and it’s entry into service has been hastened, so some international travellers may not know they will be on it. I don’t suppose it’s a warning of a known event, though I did get suspicious about MH17 knowing that Pres Obama and the British PM both warned of terrorism related to flights a week or two earlier than MH17.


  2. gives another picture of the red blue and silver plane piece shown in the report. It is a bit clearer. It seems to show that some of the shrapnell was coming from the inside, judging by the look of the metal around a lot of the holes. And tell me, if you copy the image and paste it into say an old Corel Photo Paint, do you see a thin margin down the right hand side which could indicate photoshopping. When I was on Facebook New Zealand Skeptics a photo was posted of a nude guy apparently being looked at by a child at some sort of outdoor event. Being suspicious I decided to take a better look with Corel and saw a similar right hand margin. When I commented I was told off by the poster for spoiling the fun. Maybe someone knows more than I.


  3. One of the on-line hypotheses is that two military aircraft were involved one on each side, hence the presence of both entry and exit holes in the same panels. It is a pity this preliminary report did not discuss this a bit further – and also the size and shape of the holes – as there are enough high resolution photos available. I am guessing that they have to be careful of the extent if speculation because governments get to comment before reports are released. I imagine pressure can be brought to bear.


  4. Ken, I think one can usefully compare a Primary Air Crash Investigation report to an autopsy. The autopsy will describe the clinical health of the patient, and come to an opinion on the cause of death (stabbed, shot, blunt trauma, etc). It will also list any diseases and suggest whether or not they may have contributed to the subject’s demise. But, apart from saying someone was unlawfully killed, an autopsy does not say who did it. Similarly the health or efficiency of the aircraft is determined from the clues in the wreckage (including ballistic evidence), including the data in the so-called “Black Boxes” and this is primarily what this report does. The fun really starts behind the scenes and various interested groups who are parties to the investigation struggle to divert the investigation’s attention away from them. In my opinion a lot of attention is now going to focus on any explosive residues detected on the surface of the fuselage in areas of ballistic damage, and on any sound of an explosion detected on the cockpit voice recorder. Both will help investigators deduce the “signature” of the explosive used. Chemical analysis in the case of any residue found will help identify the composition of the warhead (and hopefully nobody washed the wreckage down with an industrial solvent before the investigators got in). Similarly the “rise time” of the explosion, i.e. the time in microseconds it takes the blast to reach maximum amplitude, is another warhead signature. A sound engineer guy in the NTSB, Jim Cash, became quite an expert on this after suspicions that TWA 800 was caused by a bomb or a missile although the investigation proves it was a fuel tank explosion. Fuel or gas has a much slower rise time.
    Gerry Byrne


  5. They say a week is a long time in politics. What about a year? When it comes to the Ukraine who knows what the situation will be. The present coup installed government may be long gone, and one obstacle to the truth coming out with it.


  6. Taking a better look at the red, blue, silver picture and comparing the report and the news picture sort of stereoscopically: it seems that the big gap opened in the red part has its metal moved to the left side and is pointing out towards the viewer. A shell may have exploded inside. If there were more than one shell would the voice recorder keep going and hear them? Probably not it the microphone was disconnected from it. Is it usual for debris to be spread so far?


  7. Is it possible that some of the holes are not shrapnell holes but where rivets pulled through?


  8. Who know what is really happened with that plan? I think that is crash and dead a lot of people and You can fly there.


  9. @Alex, I do not have the resources to fly there myself. The blue, red, silver 3D attempt is now on Tate Ulsaker’s Facebook.


  10. Pingback: EPISTO! - Matthew R. X. Dentith | Conspiracy Round-up 13-12-14

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