The 13 known facts of MH17

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a Boeing 777-200, was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 when it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in the volatile eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk.

There were 298 people, including three infants, on board when it was hit. Those on board included 189 Dutch nationals and 44 Malaysians.

The New York Times has provided a summary of what is known and not known about the crash.

  • The missile was launched near the towns of Torez and Snizhne.
  • American intelligence officials believe the missile was a Russian-made SA-11, also known as a Buk or a Gadfly. The SA-11 can reach higher than the 10,060m at which the Boeing 777 was reported to be flying. Pro-Russian separatists, the Ukrainian military and Russian military all could possess an SA-11.
  • The SA-11 could reach 22,000m – or nearly double the altitude of MH17. A built-in radar system allows it to track aerial targets but only trained personnel are able to operate it.
  • American officials believe MH17 was shot down in a rebel-held territory and Moscow provided the pro-Russian separatists the missile.
  • The Russians and separatists have both denied responsibility. They have, in turn, accused the Ukrainian armed forces of shooting down the plane.
  • Kiev has released intercepted audio of phone calls between rebels and Russian officers. A rebel is heard saying “We have just shot down a plane”.
  • Crash area is now sealed off with gunmen preventing officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) access to the site. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said yesterday 181 bodies had been recovered so far.
  • The black boxes have been recovered by Ukrainian emergency services workers but no one knows who has possession of them currently. According to the NYT, Aleksandr Borodai, the self-proclaimed rebel leader, said his group had the recorders and intended to give them to OSCE.
  • The debris field is about 2.2ha spread over farmland.
  • Two Ukrainian cargo planes and a fighter jet have been shot down in the past month.
  • MH17 was flying on an active airway at an approved altitude. Russia had closed part of the airway used by MH17 if it had continued into Russian airspace. But the closing applied only to planes travelling under 9,700m. MH17 was flying above that level.
  • Other airlines, including Lufthansa, Thai Airways and KLM, also fly over eastern Ukraine. A few, such as Air France and British Airways, had avoided the region.
  • On July 1, the airspace over eastern Ukraine was closed at elevations up to 7,900m. This was raised to 9,700m this week after a Ukrainian military cargo plane was shot down by a missile. – July 19, 2014.