MH-17: Reconstruction of a Disaster

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming investigation into the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. This reconstruction is based upon credible and verifiable news sources from around the planet…

Inside the cabin, the stewards and flight attendants were busy with meal service. The passengers were contented with in-flight entertainment. The flight so far has been routine, even mundane. There were still more than 8 hours remaining to Kuala Lumpur. The passengers were thinking of their final destination, making connections, seeing loved ones, business meetings and sleeping in their own beds again.

Far below, others are animated for war. Ten miles to the south of quiet little Hrabove a convoy of military vehicles rumbled through the town of Snizhne, one of them was recognized as a SA-11 surface to air BUK missile launcher. A June 29th post by the rebels bragged about being in possession of at least one captured BUK missile system after overrunning an airbase.

Local reports put the convoy in the town around lunchtime. Atop the tracked vehicle four missiles, each18 feet long, were unmistakable for a group of Associated Press journalists covering the war. A man in fatigues cautioned the journalists against filming before the convoy rumble west out of town. Dressed in desert camouflage, unlike the rebel soldiers green uniforms, he spoke with a distinctive Russian accent.

Movements of the missile launcher that day are confirmed in eyewitness statements, video and photographs. In November 2014 the Bellingcat Group of investigative journalists published a detailed inquiry of the vehicle and its movements. That report can be found at

The missile launcher and its crew, now near the town of Torez, as well as their command and control support were expectant of an enemy incursion. They were blinded by that perspective, which betrays a complete and criminal negligence at every level in the chain of command. If Russia, in fact, supplied the vehicle then the responsible authorities share substantial culpability for allowing trigger happy, irresponsible and ill-trained rebels such a dangerously sophisticated weapon.

Initially the crew filed a flight plan which would have taken them farther to the south at an altitude of 35,000 feet. Instead they were diverted north, ostensibly for thunder storms brewing to the south, and ordered to 33,000 feet for traffic. Slowing to 490 knots, MH-17 descended 2,000 feet.

In June, despite safety assurances, both British Airlines and Lufthansa decided against risking East Ukrainian airspace. Emirates suspended flights to Ukraine altogether, according to Reuters. As pointed out in a previous chapter the routine of war balanced against marketing and business concerns, it had become normal business practice for International airlines to fly over war zones simply to save money on fuel.

Ukraine was no different. Commercial airlines regularly flew over Iraq and Afghanistan during the wars there, comfortable that insurgent forces lacked the capability to threaten them. When the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced: Ai-ya-fyatla-yoy-katl) erupted in 2010 disrupting air travel between North America and Europe and ground more than 100,000 flights, the cost to airlines and more than 6 million stranded passengers was in the tens of millions of Dollars. The costs to the bottom line are powerful drivers in the equation when left to airlines alone.

While indications are abundant and clear that the rebels assumed the incoming aircraft was a Ukrainian military transport there seems to have been a blatant disregard for protocols which would have allowed them to identify the plan as civilian. Visually it may have proved difficult, even with binoculars, to make a proper identification but the BUK system hardly relies on antiquated technology for identification. But while NATO member countries rely on the International Friend or Foe, IFF, the BUK radar has its own IFF system. According to HIS Jane’s Missiles and Rockets editor Doug Richardson:

“Although it has it own Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, this is only able to establish whether the target being tracked is a friendly aircraft. It is the electronic equivalent of a sentry calling out “Who goes there?” If there is no reply, all you know is that it is not one of your own side’s combat aircraft. It would not give you a warning that you were tracking an airliner.”

The BUK’s acquisition radar, deployed some thirty miles to the southwest in the village of Styla, allowed the rebel fighters to identify, track and target the aircraft. Whether they believed they were once again targeting a Ukrainian transport, or simply took advantage of a ready target remains unclear. Protocols, IFF, known civilian over flights, flight path, altitude, command structure and time on target removes the specter of the accidental and indicates at the very least negligence if not intention.

Once launched the fate of MH-17 was sealed. The system is highly accurate. According to, in association with Defense and Security Systems International the BUK Air Defense Missile System maintains a high kill rate at target:

A single missile can destroy tactical aircraft and helicopters with a probability between 0.9 and 0.95, while the kill probability against tactical ballistic missiles ranges between 0.6 and 0.7. The missile can operate continuously for one day with refueling and has a tear-down time of five minutes. The missile can destroy tactical ballistic missile within the range of 20km and can kill cruise missiles at 100m altitude and within the range of 20km. It has maximum target g-load of 10g and can destroy aerodynamic targets with a maximum speed of 830m/s flying at an altitude between 0.015km and 25km, and within 3km to 45km range. The missile system can operate in temperatures up to ± 50°C and wind speeds up to 30m/s. Its maximum operating altitude above sea level is 3,000m.

“A bird is flying to you,” a spotter told a rebel commander for pro-Russian separatists in Horlivka 15 miles west of the crash sight. He is identified as Igor Bezlor, a mercurial man and a typical character to be found in any conflict who is all too ready to rationalize any moral and ethical transgression to war. In temperament and stature Bezlor reminds one of the late Serbian thug and warlord Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic. His features are pallid and severe, an obligatory cigarette ever present and a black cap that seems costume-like.

“Reconnaissance plane or a big one?” asks Bezlor, from his regional headquarters in nearby Gorlovka.

There is no indication from the rebels that they were firing at anything other than a single target. They are very clearly heard discussing the size of the aircraft. If, in fact, there was a shadowing aircraft below or near the 777 the Buk radar would have indicated, and the battery would have had the capability of hitting both. The rebel leaders in those recordings have never officially acknowledged nor denied their authenticity.

On the ground at around 1:20 that afternoon residents of Torez recalled hearing loud explosions. Rostislav Grishin, a 21-year-old prison guard remembered hearing “two powerful blasts in a row.” The time must be viewed as subjective, though with a forward velocity and possibly one working engine, at least for a time, the descent would have been rapid; certainly faster than a simple freefall.

“First there was one, but then after a minute, a minute and a half, there was another discharge. I raised my head and within a minute I could see a plane falling through the clouds.” The two powerful blasts Grishin heard were undoubtedly the nearby launch of the missile followed by the detonation as the missile found its intended target.

The launch would have been powerful and thundering, followed by the long tearing crrrraaacckkk as the missile streaked skyward. Smoke and dust from the launch would have consumed briefly the massive vehicle. The roar of the launch, as recalled by a number of witnesses, carried for several miles in the rolling hills around Torez and Snizhne.

The 9M317 missile required a radar lock to steer it to the target. It is an awesome weapon when launched, a solid fuel rocket with a total burn time of about 15 seconds that finds it target at speeds of up to Mach 3 four times faster than MH-17 was travelling. A rebel Operator steered the missile in flight until the missiles own onboard system locked onto the airliner. For the crew on MH-17 and the passengers there would have been no warning as the missile streaked skywards at better than 2000 feet per second.

“Malaysian one seven,” instructs the ATC controller, “due traffic proceed direct Romeo November Delta.”

“Romeo November Delta, Malaysian one seven,” Mh-17 replied. The UTC time was 13:16:56. It was the last transmission from the aircraft.

The missile is designed to detonate within 65 feet of its target. From video and photos of the wreckage it is likely that the missile did not strike the aircraft directly. A direct impact wouldn’t have been necessary. With a 154 pound high explosive fragmentation warhead an explosion anywhere near the aircraft would have been devastating. What is certain is that the explosion was instantly catastrophic to the 777.

The missile raced up at the aircraft, passing underneath MH-17’s flight path from right to left at three times the speed of sound. Just below and behind where Captain Wan Amran sat the missile exploded with a blinding flash, probably within 20 to 40 feet of the aircraft and likely above the farm fields between the villages of Tymofiivka and Orlovo-Ivanivka. At the controls, opposite Wan Amran, Eugene Choo Jin Leong would have had no warning and no opportunity to react.

One hour and fifty-six minutes after takeoff Malaysian Airlines flight 17 disappeared from radar screens. It was 9:20am in Washington D.C.

Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at

CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. He is currently working on a new book “Shoot Down: An unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit

The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and member of the State Policy Network. IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. IPI is also a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting.[4] Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit. In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.

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Flight Plan: A Revolution and Beer Novel, part One


Ten years on. Memories came like ghosts; ghostly figures trudging wearily past a bombed out building along a snowy Sarajevo street, smoke drifting among the trees above a bloody ditch in Vietnam, the terror in a Russian prisoners eyes in a half lit basement in Kabul, the last time he’d seen Donna in that Paris airport, Emina and Adnan’s forgiving gaze as he died in Alan’s arms. These memories, they never fully left him, like an unending nightmare as real as the moment they’d happened. This road, he thought, this life was so long.

Alan was happy to be leaving Kuala Lumpur. There was a vibe, an restrained tension particularly to Americans on the street there. Not that it was anything specific Alan could point to, but rather something, a certain and palpable disdain hidden behind the eyes. People were dutiful, even hospitable in their perfunctory dealings, but for Americans especially there still remained a certain danger.

Alan let out a long breath and settled back into his business class seat. A beautiful young Malaysian flight attendant was there in a moment with a glass of sparkling water. Her thin brown face was smooth and perfect, as if she’d been sculpted. Each movement was precise and choreographed, and economical. Alan smiled casually as she set it down on the arm rest beside him. He cinched the seatbelt a bit smugly across his lap, almost smiling at the same thought he always had at this moment. The thin belt hardly was of any consequence if the plane slammed into a mountain or the ocean at three hundred miles per hour. It was just one of those odd musings cultivated after better than four decades practically living on aircraft, but that was the life of a correspondent. The thought that commercial flying was safer than any other form of transportation, especially a premiere airline like Eden.

Still, Alan had a sense of something. He couldn’t say exactly what it was, but it was dark and dangerous. It hung there like a spectre before him, torturing any pretense of a restive respite from the tension of the past several weeks. Alan had suffered such thoughts more times than he cared to recount spanning four decades of mankind’s conflicts and wars, but something was different this time. There was a tension growing through the weave of humanity. It was as if the ambient warming of the planet fed some deeper disturbance driving strife and poverty and desperation. Worse, that tension seemed about to peak and erupt with monumental cataclysm. Alan had felt it as the Berlin Wall came down at the end of the last century. What he felt now was something altogether larger and more terrible. It felt like inevitable calamity.

Alan shook away the thought, at least for the moment, and lifted the cool glass of water to his lips. From the window he watched as the ground crew pulled the equipment off the Eden Air Airbus A330. The withdrew, disappearing beyond the gate lights into the darkening Malaysian night. Passengers were still stacked up in the isles , scuffling back towards their seats. Kirby checked his watch and sighed. They would depart late.

There was a headline on the front page of the International Headline Tribune. Alan weighed the headline a moment. It was something about how House Republicans were outraged by budget cuts to the Pentagon. Below that was a story about concerns over Russian interference in the Ukraine vote. Further along Alan’s eyes paused on a shorter piece:

Militants Slash more than 100 in China

Alan skimmed the short piece, taking another sip of his water.

…in retaliation for government crackdowns against activists and seperatists in China’s largely Muslim Xinxiang province, militants attacked people with knives and swords, injuring 143 and killing 29…

Alan frowned with a sigh and stuffed the paper between the seat and bulkhead where he’d also tucked his phone and a bottle of water inside a small airline blanket.

He closed his eyes and thought about Hong Kong and the book. Kirby was working on a book about Edward Snowden, the whistleblower that had embarrassed the national Security Agency and the administration by releasing tens of thousands of classified documents to select journalists. The book had taken Kirby the better part of a hundred thousand miles, including a half dozen LeCarre-like visits to Snowden’s secret flat in Moscow. He was beat. While in better shape than men half his age, at sixty-eight, the schedule was more than daunting.

“I know you!” came a voice in thickly accented Australian. John looked up as a stock red-haired middle-aged man slid into the empty seat beside him. “Evan, uh…”


“Right,” Alan Kirby, right? I saw your interview with Edward Snowden on Al Jezeera in my hotel the other day.”

“Oh, well, thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. I think he’s a traitor. Don’t you feel the least bit guilty enabling that sort of behavior?”

Alan looked at the man good and hard and thought that once he might have, at least verbally, ripped the guy apart. Instead, discretion for the moment was the better part of getting some rest.

“Have a good flight.”

“Hey, mate,” said the guy, suddenly apologetic, “no offense. Forget I said anything.”
“No worries,” Alan replied, finishing his water and closing his eyes again. Better to set the pace now and send the unequivocal statement that Alan wasn’t interested in conversation. He closed his eyes and turned towards the window, folding his arms as tightly as possible.

He let his thoughts drift away to quieter thoughts, ruminations and cherished moments only just aware as the plane taxied and then lifted off in short order into a cloudless and starry Malaysian sky.

Below Kuala Lumpur’s crowded and brightly lit city center fell away quickly. The A330 banked east over the mountains and the darkest interior of the island nation. From there they would pass just north of Dungun with its’ rocky beaches and out over the South China Sea, following the coast of Vietnam. In seven hours or so they’d land in Hong Kong. Kirby was already looking forward to a hot shower and a proper bed.

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