Thứ Bảy, 19 tháng 7, 2014

Virgin Atlantic plane was in same area as MH17: Packed Heathrow-bound ...

  • Virgin Atlantic flight VS301 from Delhi to London was just 140 miles away

  • One of three Virgin flights planning to fly over Ukraine in week leading up to attack

  • Singapore Airlines plane pictured just two minutes before MH17 attack

  • Six Heathrow flights were among 55 planes over Donetsk on same day

  • Nearly 300 passengers planes scheduled to fly over Ukraine yesterday

  • CAA warned pilots against certain areas, but declared others ‘normal’

  • European and Asian airlines used route despite US carriers being banned

  • Airspace ‘was not subject to restrictions’ according to airline industry group

  • International Civil Aviation Authority had advised to seek other routes


Sarah Gordon

and Carol Driver

and Ray Massey



    Virgin Atlantic had a packed Heathrow-bound airliner flying through Ukrainian airspace when MH17 was brought down.

    Flight VS301 from Delhi to London was over the city of Zaporizhia, in Eastern Ukraine, and just 140 miles from where the missile was launched.

    It was one of nearly 300 planes in Ukrainian airspace, of which 55 – including six flights from Heathrow Airport – were in the immediate ‘war zone.’

    Flight history: A map taken from that charts the path of the Virgin Atlantic flight, which was just 140 miles away from MH17 when it was shot down

    It was also one of three Virgin Atlantic airliners plotted flying over the Ukraine in the seven days leading up to the attack by flight tracking aviation website

    A Singapore Airlines passenger plane was flying just 15 miles away when flight MH17 was shot down.

    This new data emerged as security experts warned that with thousands of Britons unwittingly flying over the Ukraine each week and one said: ‘It could so easily have been one of ours.’

    Other airlines which used the same airspace over Donetsk as the MH17 plane on the same day include Jet Airways, Thai Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad; Emirates, and Austrian Airlines.

    Safety and security first: After the tragedy of flight MH17 emerged, Virgin Atlantic subsequently joined scores of airlines re-routing planes away from the Ukranian war¿zone

    There was also another Malaysian Airlines flight travelling from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur.

    Virgin Atlantic subsequently joined scores of airlines re-routing planes away from the Ukranian war–zone.

    Virgin declined to say exactly how many of its own flights had been overflying Ukraine’s airspace before the incident or how close they were to the point where the doomed plane was hit. But it confirmed it was not ‘currently’ doing so.

    A Virgin spokeswoman said: ‘Virgin Atlantic can confirm that we are not currently flying over Ukrainian air space. Safety and security is our top priority and we will always follow government advice in such matters.’

    Pressed further on  how many planes and passengers were affected a spokeswoman would say only: ‘That’s our statement. We’re not saying any more.’

    European aviation officials said that nearly 300 passenger planes were scheduled to fly over Ukraine on the day of the attack.

    Danger zone: data shows the closest plane in the air to MH17 just two minutes before it was shot out of the sky over Ukraine was a Singapore Airlines flight

    A Singapore

    Airlines passenger plane was flying just 15 miles away from flight MH17

    when it was shot out of the sky over Ukraine.

    Data from reveals the Copenhagen to Singapore flight

    was in airspace above the dangerous Donetsk region just two minutes

    before a surface-to-air missile hit the Malaysia Airlines plane on



    also reveal 55 planes – including six flights from London’s Heathrow

    Airport – flew over the war zone on the same day the tragedy happened.

    Airlines which used the same airspace over Donetsk as the MH17 plane on the same day include: Jet Airways; Thai Airways; Pakistan International Airlines; Qatar Airways; Etihad; Emirates; and Austrian Airlines.

    There was also another Malaysian Airlines flight travelling from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur.

    It comes as figures also reveal that 300 passenger planes were scheduled to fly over Ukraine yesterday.

    Some 290 commercial flights continued operating over the war zone, with just 10 fewer aircraft entering Ukrainian airspace than normal, according to European air traffic control centre Eurocontrol.

    Scroll down for video

    Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 taking off from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands yesterday


    Relatives of those who died in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine will each receive £3,000, the carrier’s vice president said today.

    Huib Gorter also said the airline hopes to fly relatives to Ukraine, although he warned the crash site is in difficult terrain around 300 miles from the capital Kiev.

    Mr Gorter said affected families had a lot of needs at present.

    He added those next of kin who had made their way to Schipol were being accommodated at a hotel. 

    ‘We want to ensure we are a caring company and we want to ensure families get the best we can offer,’ he said.

    Mr Gorter said the airline had its own care team looking after the families, who were also being assisted by Schipol’s staff and by airline partner KLM.

    He went on: ‘It is our intention to fly relatives to Ukraine. But the crash site is 500km from Kiev and it is extremely difficult terrain.

    ‘We are working on the logistics to see if it is feasible (to take families to the crash site).’ 


    flights were still operating in the conflict zone despite warnings from

    as far back as April from the UN’s International Civil Aviation

    Organization (ICAO) about potential risks to commercial planes.

    Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down yesterday over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

    The ICAO advised carriers to consider alternative routes after

    outlining ‘the possible existence of serious risks to the safety of

    international civil flights’.

    In response to warnings, American flights had been banned from flying over Ukraine, but European and Asian carriers were still operating in the area.

    On July 1,

    Ukraine increased the altitude that aircraft could fly at in the

    area to 26,000ft, then on July 14, the restriction was increased again to


    Flight MH17 was flying at 33,000ft when it was shot down.


    the Malaysian Airlines decision to fly over eastern Ukraine, the country’s prime minister Najib Razak said international air authorities had deemed the flight path secure.


    aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil

    Aviation Organization. And (the) International Air Transportation

    Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was

    not subject to restrictions,’ he said.

    Tragedy: Debris is seen at the site of Thursday’s Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 air crash near the settlement of Grabovo

    Steering clear: Map of European airspace showing flights avoiding Ukraine after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down


    airlines were also given the all-clear to fly over Ukraine as recently

    as a month ago by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).


    ‘note to airmen’ known as a Notam was released on June 14 listing

    multiple areas over Ukraine where there are were complications due to both

    Russia and Ukraine both trying to control the skies, but did not advise

    against flying into the area.


    With the nationalities of 20 passengers still to be determined, this is the breakdown of people on board so far:
    Netherlands: 173
    Malaysia: 44
    Australia: 27
    Indonesia: 12
    UK: 9
    Germany: 4
    Belgium: 4
    Philippines: 3
    Canada: 1
    New Zealand: 1


    the tragedy, airlines rushed to cancel flights entering Ukrainian

    airspace, with British Airways confirming it had axed its once-a-day Heathrow to Kiev

    flight. Emirates revealed it was forced to turn back a plane about to enter Ukrainian

    airspace following the incident.

    However, various Asian carriers confirmed they had cancelled their routes over Ukraine months ago.

    South Korea’s two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana had already re-routed flights, as had Australian carrier Qantas and Taiwan’s China Airlines.

    Singapore Airlines also said it had been using Ukrainian airspace but had ‘re-routed all flights’ to alternative corridors away from the region.

    However, it was not made clear when this decision was taken.

    Ukrainian airspace has now been closed until further notice.

    British pilots’ organisation Balpa said: ‘Civil aviation should never be allowed to become a part of conflict and be threatened in this way.

    ‘The apparent shooting down of this aircraft is therefore of extreme concern to pilots.’

    However, questions

    have emerged about why European and Asian airlines had continued to fly over Ukraine, particularly after American carriers had been banned from using the airspace due to safety concerns.


    an interview with CBS News, Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger – the

    pilot who safely landed a plane on the Huson River in New York in 2009 -

    questioned why the MH17 was flying near the

    Ukraine-Russia border.

    ‘That is one of the big questions right now,’ he said. ‘The US Federal Aviation Administration has barred US Airlines from flying over this area for some time.

    ‘It’s up to each individual nation, each individual airline how much risk they are going to accept.’

    A screenshot from the website of Flightaware shows the track of the Malaysian passenger plane MH17 before its crash

    There are questions about why the jet, pictured, along with multiple other airlines were still operating over Ukraine, despite American carriers being banned by their aviation authority

    Veteran Australian war correspondent Michael Ware said: ‘This is a sad reality of where the commercial imperative collides with war. It’s still economically attractive to airlines to continue flying over war zones. It’s simply a matter of cost and reducing fuel. Alas that is what happened here.’

    Ware said Jordanian Airlines and Iraqi Air both operated ceaselessly over Iraq at the height of its conflict.

    The route flown by MH17

    was the most common for flights from Europe to South East Asia,

    according to the European Cockpit Association, which represents more

    than 38,000 European pilots.


    British Airways confirmed it is considering the future of its daily flight from Heathrow to Kiev, stating: ‘We are keeping those services under review, but Kiev is several hundred kilometres from the incident site.’

    Virgin Atlantic released a statement saying: ‘[We] can confirm that we are not currently flying over this air space. Safety and security is our top priority and we will always follow government advice in such matters.’

    Air France released a statement saying: ‘The Company has not flown over the Crimean region since 3rd April 2014 Air France keeps a close eye on the situation and has taken the decision not to fly over the Ukraine since it has been made aware of this incident.’

    Dutch carrier KLM stated: ‘It is with great regret that KLM has learnt about the accident with flight MH17, codeshare KL4103, of Malaysia Airlines from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

    ‘Our hearts go out to all families and friends of the passengers and crew on board of flight MH17.We are in contact with Malaysia Airlines to obtain further information. As a precautionary measure KLM avoids flying over the concerned territory.

    Emirates said that one of its

    jets bound for Ukraine’s capital of Kiev turned around and returned to

    Dubai. The airline suspended all flights to Kiev indefinitely. It

    emphasized that flights to and from the U.S. and other European

    destinations don’t fly over the area where the Malaysia Airlines Boeing

    777 crashed.

    Germany’s Lufthansa immediately rerouted

    all overflights to avoid eastern Ukraine, although flights to Kiev and

    Odessa were not affected.

    Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said that none

    of its flights operated over the portion of Ukraine covered by the FAA

    security advisory, but added that it would stop routing flights over any

    part of the country.

    Australia’s Qantas confirmed the airline stopped flying over

    Ukraine several months ago and shifted its London-Dubai route 400 miles to the south.

    South Korean airlines Korean Airlines and Asiana also confirmed they had re-routed flights prior to the accident, as had Taiwan’s China Airlines.

    Russian Aeroflot, UTair and Transaero, Turkish airlines, Italy’s Alitalia and America’s Delta diverted all their planes away from the strife-hit region.

    ‘After the incident we have decided to avoid Ukrainian airspace,’ a Turkish Airlines spokesman said.


    which is the air traffic control centre for Europe, released a

    statement explaining why planes were still flying over Eastern Ukraine.

    It said: ‘This route had been closed by the

    Ukrainian authorities from ground to flight level 320 [32,000 feet] but

    was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying.’

    MH17 was flying at 33,000ft over the Ukraine, the lowest permitted altitude in the area.

    Flight plans submitted by pilots are

    automatically checked against closed areas of airspace.


    said: ‘All flight plans that are filed using these routes are now being


    The European Air Safety Authority issued airlines with a number of alternative routes avoiding Ukraine 


    airlines rushed to confirm they were not using Ukrainian airspace, with

    Air France confirming it had re-routed all flights as far back as April



    also confirmed it was not flying over the area, as did British Airways -

    except for its daily flight to Kiev.

    Dubai airline Emirates confirmed that it had planned to cancel all flights between Dubai and Kiev from August 1, citing ‘political uncertainty in the Ukraine which has resulted in weakened demand’.


    a statement the CAA said that following the MH17 disaster airlines had

    been told by the European air traffic control body to avoid the region:

    ‘The Ukrainian authorities are responsible for managing their airspace

    and the UK or other countries cannot enforce airspace restrictions in

    the area.

    ‘However, the CAA has previously issued advice to UK airlines

    on operating in this area and following this incident, Eurocontrol has

    issued advice to airlines to plan routes that avoid the area.’

    Aviation experts fear that MH17 used the route through Ukraine as it was shorter and saved fuel

    Air crash investigators will look for the aircraft’s black boxes to determine what exactly happened to the jet 

    Comments (140)

    Share what you think

    The comments below have not been moderated.


    New York, United States,

    6 hours ago

    Is it just me or does anyone else wonder if it really is a coincidence that it was yet another Malaysian airliner that came down out of the hundreds of other planes that supposedly flew over that area?


    kuala lumpur, Malaysia,

    6 hours ago

    it was not bcos of some itchy fingers to push the missiles buttons, but I really think there was an agenda behind the shooting of an airlines from a weak nation like Malaysia to serve the political ambitions in Ukraine between the superpowers US and Russia. Yes, I lost a friend with his whole family in this doom airlines. Was that fair?



    7 hours ago

    Virgin was 140 miles away, which means it was nowhere near the conflict zone.

    It strikes me as odd that a civilian aircraft was allowed to fly right into an area where two Ukrainian military planes were downed this week. I think some people were hopping for this to happen.

    I think both the Ukrainian government and Malaysian airlines have some explaining to do.



    11 hours ago

    I am more interested why 2 Ukrainian military planes were shadowing this MH flight with one of their flights showing exactly the same call signal on radar. Using civilian craft as a human shield is not acceptable.

    mort dog,

    Auckland, New Zealand,

    9 hours ago

    They may have been checking it out to see whether it was a Russian spy plane if they were there at all.

    Ben Omar,

    Petaling Jaya, Malaysia,

    6 hours ago

    Funny mort dog. There’s IFF. Back in ’39 they’ve already created that thing.


    12 hours ago

    My sister is crew for emirates and has flown over that airspace half a dozen times in the last ten days, including yesterday morning. That thought alone turns my stomach. Cannot imagine how the relative of the passengers and crew of this flight feels.RIP

    John Cameron,

    St Andrews, United Kingdom,

    12 hours ago

    Earlier this year the Federal Aviation Administration banned American carriers from flying over disputed areas between Russia and Ukraine for safety concerns. It claimed the compliance with instructions issued by the authorities of one country could result in aircraft being misidentified as a threat by air defense forces of the other country. Yet over 300 international daily flights continued through the zone because it was the quickest and cheapest long-haul route between Western Europe and South East Asia. In fact the Ukraine had closed its airspace below 32,000 feet on Monday after rebels shot down its military aircraft having earlier restricted the airspace below 26,000 feet. Qantas shifted its Ukrainian flight path 400 nautical miles to the south several months ago and it would be interesting to know which airlines carried on regardless.


    london, United Kingdom,

    12 hours ago

    this is just too sad these malaysian airlines are doomed


    London, United Kingdom,

    12 hours ago

    Clearly both sides would not shoot down a civilian plane on purpose, however, out of all the planes flying over Ukraine yesterday, the only one targeted shares the same colours of the Russian flag and was flying towards Russia.

    2 of 3 repliesSee all replies


    Melbourne, Australia,

    10 hours ago

    @AussieJohn Shame they missed then

    Ben Omar,

    Petaling Jaya, Malaysia,

    6 hours ago

    So, if this is your logic Aussiejohn, are you implying that the Ukrainians shot that plane down? How is it possible that the separatist wanted to shoot down their own master in that sense? And if I’m Putin himself, don’t you think that the idea of flying over my current war enemy’s airspace a bit ludicrous?



    13 hours ago

    Pay the extra flight costs and fly around the war zone in Kiev.


    Kansas City,

    13 hours ago

    This plane was targeted specifically by Russian troops because of the number of Americans and Britons on board. The other planes were let go, not enough Americans or Britons on it. It’s time to put troops in Ukraine and secure that airspace. Then, a nationally televised message to American and world audiences. Putin, you have crossed the line. If even a single American soldier is shot by “rebels” (i.e. Russian troops pretending to be rebels) then world war III begins.



    11 hours ago

    Are you delusional or just plain silly? There were 10 Brits on board and 1 American. A BA flight would have been a better target according to your weird thinking pattern.

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