Pilots on board an Air India Dreamliner which was flying just 90 seconds behind Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 say they heard Ukrainian air traffic control give the order for the doomed plane to change route minutes before MH17 was shot down by a missile.
According to a report in the Times of India, “Minutes before the crash caused by a missile strike, the AI pilots…. heard the controller give the Malaysian aircraft MH17 what is called “a direct routing”. This permits an aircraft to fly straight, instead of tracking the regular route which is generally a zig-zag track that goes from one ground-based navigation aid or way point to another.”
The AI Dreamliner was less than 25km away from MH17 when it was shot down, a flying distance of just 90 seconds.
Ukraine ATC subsequently asked the Dreamliner pilots to try and make contact with MH17 when it disappeared from radar, but to no avail.
India’s civil aviation industry denied that the Dreamliner was in the region when the incident occurred, although flight tracking data shows it was in the vicinity.
The news arrives as Russia accused Kiev of tampering with air traffic control data in order to sway the outcome of the investigation into what happened to MH17.
“According to reports that emerge, Ukrainian authorities are conducting certain covert activities involving data storage equipment and employees of Ukrainian air traffic control services, both civilian and military, without notifying international organizations,” spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
As we reported yesterday, the question of why Ukrainian authorities have refused to release transcripts of air traffic control conversations with pilots of the doomed airliner continues to swirl almost a week after the incident. In comparison, air traffic control transcripts involving Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing in March, were released publicly within 72 hours.
Almost immediately after MH17 was shot down, “Ukraine’s SBU security service…. confiscated recordings of conversations between Ukrainian air traffic control officers and the crew of the doomed airliner,” reported BBC News.
Information obtained from the recordings could determine the veracity of Russia’s claim that MH17 was being closely followed by at least one Ukrainian fighter jet in the minutes before its demise.
Questions have abounded as to why flight MH17 pilots were re-routed to overfly eastern Ukraine when most other major airlines have avoided the airspace for months. Data shows that MH17′s previous ten flight paths before the shoot down avoided eastern Ukraine entirely.
In another development, Kiev claims that two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down today by missiles fired from Russian territory. In an apparent contradiction to Kiev’s own narrative on MH17, Ukrainian security spokesman Col. Andriy Lysenko said that rebels did not have access to missiles that could reach 17,000 feet, despite the fact that MH17 was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it was shot down.