Ukraine air traffic controllers instructed MH17 to fly lower, MAS says

Malay Mail Online — July 18, 2014

Pro Russian militia survey the wreckage of MH17 at the crash site. Click to enlarge

Pro Russian militia survey the wreckage of MH17 at the crash site. Click to enlarge

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) said tonight that it was told to fly low over Ukrainian airspace by ground controllers, putting it at 33,000 feet, just skimming 1,000 feet above restricted altitude.

In a statement here, MAS explained that MH17 had initially filed a flight plan requesting to fly at 35,000 feet above Ukrainian territory, which it described as close to the “optimum altitude”.

“However, an aircraft’s altitude in flight is determined by air traffic control on the ground.

“Upon entering Ukrainian airspace, MH17 was instructed by Ukrainian air traffic control to fly at 33,000 feet,” the national carrier said.

The decision by MH17’s pilots to skim closely to the prohibited air zone — which is 32,000 feet, according to Europe’s aviation authority Eurocontrol — has prompted numerous questions whether this may have contributed to what is believed to be a case of mistaken identity.

Authorities have yet to confirm what brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight with 298 on board, but suspicion has fallen on the pro-Russian separatists who are believed to have fired an air-defence missile at the civilian airliner after mistaking it for a military transporter plane.

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