Ukrainian airspace should've been shut in May: report

The Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site in Ukraine. Source: Twitter/ @mashable. (The Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site in Ukraine. Source: Twitter/ @mashable)

Civil airspace over eastern Ukraine should have been closed at least two months before a missile brought down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, aviation experts said this weekend. Pointing to the increased use of the airspace for warfare in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the analysts say it makes no sense the airspace was still open for civilian flights on July 17, 2014, when the Boeing 777 blew apart in the sky.

It was in May that an Antonov AN-30 twin-engined aircraft was shot out of the sky by pro-Russian supporters in the Ukraine.

“From May, when the first signs [emerged] that the terrorists had these weapons, the authority should have asked if the airspace needed to be closed,” Dmytro Tymchuk, a Ukrainian military analyst now serving as a Member of Parliament with the pro-Europe People’s Front party. “That did not happen,” he told broadcaster NOS.

Instead, he said civilian airspace was ordered held above 7,925 meters.

Former European Cockpit Association president Nico Voorbach has a similar sentiment. “It is now known that there were dogfights taking place over eastern Ukraine, so it appears that the conflict was greater than it appeared at the time,” Voorbach said.

Looking in hindsight at the increasing conflict between the warring sides, and the militarization of the skies over the Ukraine, he said, “Based on what is completely known now, the airspace had to be closed.”

As the conflict intensified before flight MH17 was brought down, some airlines routed around eastern Ukraine instead of flying over the region. “If other countries and airlines knew that air battles were taking place over eastern Ukraine, and that ground missiles were present which could strike at a high altitude, everyone would have taken a different route,” Voorbach said.

Less than a week before the Malaysia Airline flight crashed to the ground, an Antonov AN-26 transport plane was shot down, as well as a fighter jet.

The investigation into the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight, which departed from Amsterdam, is being called the biggest Dutch investigation in the history of the country. The flight was carrying 298 passengers and crew, all of whom died that day.