The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has welcomed the Dutch Safety Board’s final report on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed on July 17, 2014, in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.
Known as an “Accident Investigation Final Report,” the document summarized findings and provided recommendations on the technical investigation conducted under the international requirements established by the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention.
It concluded the Boeing was “shot down over the eastern part of Ukraine, where an armed conflict broke out in April 2014,” killing all 298 people on board. In further detail, the report noted a Russian-made Buk missile hit the front left of the plane causing other parts to break off. The report does not say who fired the missile, but says airspace over eastern Ukraine should have been closed.
“ICAO and its member states responded rapidly in the aftermath of MH17 to address some important immediate concerns,” said ICAO’s Council President, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.
“Now that the Dutch Safety Board has issued its final report, ICAO will be reviewing its recommendations applicable to our organization and responding as needed to ensure that air transport continues to be the safest way to travel,” he continued, noting investigations under Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention are “directly related to improving flight safety, and not to the apportioning of liability or blame.”
In the weeks immediately following the MH17 incident, ICAO established a special task force on risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones. The task force recommended ICAO should establish an online repository where states could share their conflict zone information more effectively, and where the public could also access it. ICAO launched the new online tool in April of this year.
Additional task force recommendations included advice on risk assessment terminology, a comprehensive review of existing requirements and message formats, and industry led-initiatives to share operational information and be more transparent with passengers. ICAO has also reportedly begun work on agreed contingency flight routings for conflict zones under its regional air navigation planning groups.
Immediately after the accident, ICAO said its investigation specialists began assisting and providing technical Annex 13 consultations to the MH17 investigation at the request of the states which instituted it. This reportedly included advice on the formal handover of investigation authority from Ukraine to the Netherlands.
“Any fatality is one too many in civil aviation,” Aliu stressed. “Our sector is constantly improving its safety performance through a wide range of collaborative global measures relating to data sharing and the strategic prioritization of flight safety risks, and accident investigation Final Reports play a very valuable part in that process.”
Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) disagreed with the Dutch Safety Board’s report, saying it does not have enough facts.
“We’ve studied the document and I can say with responsibility that the Russian commission categorically disagrees with the report’s conclusions. These are fundamentally wrong and contradiction to logic is out of proportion," said Deputy Chief of Rosaviatsiya Oleg Storchevoy. "It seems the commission was picking evidence. The report does not have enough facts confirming the trustworthiness of the investigation."
On October 13, Russian antiaircraft missile system manufacturer Almaz-Antey presented its own conclusions on the crash following large-scale modelling experiments that reportedly confirmed an earlier version of events that the missile that hit the plane had been launched from the territory controlled by Ukraine and not militiamen.
The Kremlin has repeatedly voiced its concerns about the way the investigation was being handled and that Russian data was being ignored. Russia continues its own investigation into the crash.
The United Nations Secretary-General joined ICAO in welcoming the release of the final report by the Dutch Safety Board, noting it is in line with Security Council resolution 2166 (2014) which demands accountability, full access to the site of the crash and a halt to military activities.
“The United Nations has from the very beginning fully supported and shared in the determination of the international community to seek the truth about what happened,” said Ban’s spokesperson.
The Secretary-General also once again paid tribute to the innocent victims who lost their lives on that “tragic day,” and said he shares in the need for full accountability, underlining that anyone found to be responsible must be brought to justice.
Whether anyone will be found to be responsible remains to be seen, as the report does not say who fired the missile and that it may never be known.
It is, however, fair to say that the airspace should have been closed on the day of the crash and those accountable must shoulder at least some of the blame. Because 160 flights flew over the area in question that day, it is a miracle only one aircraft was downed.