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MH17 Lost Speed Shortly Before Vanishing From Radars - Russian Military

RIA Novosti

18:30 21/07/2014

MOSCOW, July 21 (RIA Novosti) – The Malaysia Airlines passenger plane started losing speed three minutes before it went off radar screens and crashed in eastern Ukraine, a senior official of the Russian General Staff said Monday.

"The plane began to steadily lose speed at 17:20 [14:20 GMT] and disappeared from radar screens at 17:23 [14:23 GMT]," said Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the General Staff's Main Operational Directorate.

Flight controllers reported Thursday that the plane vanished from radar screens while flying at an altitude of about 10,000 meters (some 33,000 feet).

"The plane followed the established air corridor until Donetsk and then veered off its course to the north," the official said.

He said the plane, which at some point was 14 kilometers away from the course, attempted to return to the air corridor but crashed before completing the maneuver. Everyone on board – or a total of 298 people – were killed as a result.

"The reason for flying off the course – whether the crew made a navigational error or followed Ukrainian air traffic control commands – can be learned only from flight recorders, known as 'black boxes,' and from recorded communications of the air traffic control," he added.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said earlier in the day that flight data recorders were still to be found, but once they were this valuable evidence should be immediately transferred to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in charge of the crash investigation.

The same day as the jet went down in Ukraine, the head of the Russian state-run air transport agency, Rosaviatsiya, said the Malaysian airliner had not contacted the country's air traffic controllers in Rostov, who were to navigate it across the next airspace segment.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) stressed Thursday the airspace over Ukraine was open the day the plane crashed.

"Based on the information currently available it is believed that the airspace that the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions,' the IATA air traffic authority said Thursday in a brief statement published on its website.

This statement ran counter to the announcement of the Ukrainian air traffic agency, Ukraerorukh, released in early July that the airspace over the areas involved in Kiev's "anti-terror" operation was closed over security concerns.

"To guarantee a proper level of air traffic security, the air space over the territory where the ATO [anti-terror operation] is underway has been closed for flights of civil aircraft in the interest of the state aviation,' the message of the Ukraerorukh said.

Brussels-based Eurocontrol confirmed the aircraft was flying at Flight Level 330 (approximately 10,000 metres/33,000 feet) when it vanished and followed a route that had been closed by the Ukrainian authorities - but only at the altitude from ground to flight level 320.

The Malaysian Boeing en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed near the town of Torez on Thursday. There were 298 passengers and 15 crew members on board. No one survived.

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