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MH317 highlights from Professional Pilots Rumor Network

PPRUNE (Professional Pilots Rumor Network) is the goto site for aircraft disasters informations. Although it's been mostly down for the last two days -- and no wonder -- it's up now, presumably because it's late in the evening and traffic is low, so I thought I'd post a few of the more interesting comments (446, at present), starting with the newest and working back. Of course, I don't know any of the players, so all I can do is go with what seems plausible, insightful, fresh, or fact-based. Highlights from yesterday and today:


Folks, we're on a hiding to nothing if all we throw around is conjecture and reheated Cold War rhetoric. So let's get a few things straight on the political front - to whit:

Russia is no "backwater" or "banana republic". The state may have lost its "superpower" status with the fall of the USSR, but it would be naive in the extreme to assume that there is not enough infrastructure in place to play the situation with complete precision.

Vladimir Putin [and I cannot emphasise this enough] is not stupid. From what is known he was no Party apparatchik, he was a senior figure in state security counter-intelligence. The reason he wields the power he does is because he knows exactly where every closeted skeleton lies, where every body is buried, and exactly who put the bodies there. He is *absolutely* not to be underestimated.

If the "pro-Kremlin" rebels did indeed shoot MH17 down, they've just cut Putin off at the knees - and if the people responsible are not currently making every possible effort to vanish, they will either end up being handed over to spare the Kremlin's blushes, or face-down in a nondescript field with a shiv in their back.

While the area where the aircraft came down is held by the rebels on paper, it is still very much an unstable region. Any person who successfully smuggles out wreckage with proof of an external explosion will effectively get to name their price with the Kiev government. If this occurs, whatever becomes of the flight recorders will essentially be moot.


re the black box moot bit . re dozywannabee

actually a few seconds thought re the black boxe(s) CVR and FDR.

At best the FDR *might* show via acceleration traces what side of the plane was hit by the missile, and algtitude, speed, etc at that instant. So big deal

And the CVR **might** have caught a WTF ???

And it doesn't add anything of significance - but makes for good media fodder.

Of course there may be some other conversations IF plane was divereted or if they noticed anything . . . but IMHO such conversations with ground or ATC are already recorded .


According to ABC News:


At a June 30 Pentagon news conference, NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russia had been providing air defense training to Russian separatists on its side of the border with Ukraine that focused on “vehicle-borne” surface-to-air missiles.

* * * *

“What we see in training on the east side of the border is big equipment, tanks, APCs, anti-aircraft capability, and now we see those capabilities being used on the west side of the border,” Breedlove said at the time.

He added that the anti-aircraft capability training focused on larger vehicle-borne missiles instead of portable MANPADS.

“We have not seen training of MANPADS,” Breedlove told reporters. “But we have seen vehicle-borne capability being trained.”

NATO General Warned of Russian ?Anti-Aircraft? Training for Separatists - ABC News

If that June 30 date is accurate it supports the contention some 'separatists' had recent training in vehicle-borne systems and access to them, and at some level Russian military/intelligence knew it as well.

It may also fuel the debate on why airlines continued to traverse that area. Would only NATO members specifically be advised of the increased risk to commercial aviation? Would the decision-makers at some airlines even understand the significance of vehicle-borne missile systems versus MANPADS?


U.S. intelligence confirms pro-Russian rebels shot down Malaysian plane

Obama to speak on Ukraine

Ah, US intelligence says.

Must be true, then.

It doesn't really matter whodunnit. The facts are that Russia & The West are fighting a proxy war in East Ukraine, in the midst of which an airliner full of civilians has been shot down. If we're not careful, we'll all fingerwag our way into WWIII.


Here is a video showing how an engagement looks like for operators of a Buk-M1 Launcher:

At 1.19 we see the operator's consoles, horizontal situation being displayed on the larger, circular orange display. I'm not sure what the right retangular orange display is for - vertical situation, precise target tracking, missile tracking ?
There is also a green oscilloscop-like display - not sure what it does, and a TV display for targeting using a visual channel.

From 1.24 to 1.29 we see a target engagement on the circular display - first the radar is scanning wide 120deg horizontal sector (7deg in elevation), we see a blip of a target detected. As the target is selected, the scanning is quickly reduced to 10deg zone, and just after that - target is locked on and the beam is tracking it.

All this looks quite "analog" - no syntetic situation display with computer generated target markers tagged with speed and altitude data - only analog "blips" on radar, the range is determined by the radar display grid, the speed - probably by the rate of movement on the display, and the altitude of the target - well, I have no idea if it's displayed anywhere ? Maybe after the target is locked on, some numerical or at least analog data about speed, course and altitude is calculated and displayed... somwhere....

The target detection, identification and selection is usually done by the battery's command center vehicle (which have data from the big search radar, with digital displays and syntetic computer-generated target symbols on them) - operators in command center would easily see difference between Su-25, An-26 or a B777 crusing at 33k. The radar on the TELAR Buk launcher vehicle is a simple one, used mainly for for locking on target, tracking and illlumination. It does have some target detection capability, but is very simple and gives little data about the targets - they are just "blips".
A calm and experienced operator could probably say the target is too high to be a Su-25 or An-26, but an inexperienced one in a rush ? I imagine that with such displays they could easily lock-on the MH17 thinking it's a lower flying ukrainian plane. Target speed, size or altitude just doesn't show on those displays, or this kind of data is not easily accesible and interpreted.

Didn't they know there is a commercial passenger traffic high overheads ? They could see the contrails with their naked eye.... Maybe the operators just arrived at the scene (with the vehicle) and just didn't happen to think about it.... That capabilities of their SAM system reaches to heights of civilian traffic and they can detect/engage a civilian plane mistakenly... Seems that in their minds a detected target just had to be military ukrainian one....

Well, in my language there is a proverb about giving a razor to a monkee...

Someone who gave a SAM system with such capabilities to a group of rebels, should be brought to justice....


Right, very easy.

Most of those consoles on that kit are system status indicators, if they are green you're good to go. The rest are controls for the displays and signal processing system for the radars or manual overrides to allow the system to be operated in the face of ECM or minor equipment system failures. If any of those systems break, you will need an experienced technician to fix them and if you're operating with friendly air forces and in an ECM environment experienced operators are a must, however the actual engagement sequence of this system from the layout of the kit is very likely to be very similar to that of most other Russian mobile SAM systems as they are all heavily automated. To engage a target once the system is fully run up, three or four actions by the man of the left after he has picked up the target on the search radar, three or four by the guy on the right hand console, missile away. Seeing that the kit has been kicking around since the mid 1980's it is very likely that there are plenty of ex Soviet / Russian / Ukrainian armed forces personnel about on the rebel side who could operate this system to a standard that would allow an aircraft at 33,000 ft to be engaged. The question is where did the missile system come from?


The Russians were cock a hoop when the Donetsk People's Republic claimed to have captured a Bukh battery from the Ukrainians only a few days ago:

Donetsk militia takes control of Ukrainian anti-air installation - News - World - The Voice of Russia: News, Breaking news, Politics, Economics, Business, Russia, International current events, Expert opinion, podcasts, Video

They were also delighted when the DPR claimed a couple of kills 2 days ago:

Self-defense fighters downed two Ukrainian strike aircraft ? Donetsk People's Republic - News - World - The Voice of Russia: News, Breaking news, Politics, Economics, Business, Russia, International current events, Expert opinion, podcasts, Video

If you claim to have Bukh SAMs and claim to have shot down enemy aircraft previously, don't be surprised if someone thinks you did it.


Number of overflights by airlines in the last 7 days over the shoot-down area :

Malaysia Airlines MH17: Lufthansa überflog Ost-Ukraine 56 Mal - SPIEGEL ONLINE


Hello everyone,

One thing mentioned yesterday by Polish military pilot, worth mentioning here I guess.

Russian systems have an IFF, which is not ICAO compatible. What it does, is basically showing russian military planes as own, and everything else is enemy, even if that's the civil plane with standard ICAO mode3 sending civil id.

Furthermore, before posting anything, notice all photos are showing debris under overcast sky. So - sorry, all videos are fake.

Plus, there are three parties who might've shot the plane down. Ukrainians, Russians, or separatists themselves. If debris allows the id of missiles (and it's a Buk), it's down to two. If it's S-300 - it's down to two. BUT - I feel it's anyways down to two. You don't just get the highly sophisticated SAM battery and shoot them next day after. You need a group of organized and trained men to operate. So, my guess it's either Ukrainians, or Russians. There might be a quick separatist finger on the trigger there, but I cannot imagine them running without all the required support.

Anyways - very sad day and a sign we cannot accept war - there are no wars which we can actually skip. It seems they'll return to us sooner or later.


Having operated and maintained Russian SAM systems, I can guarantee that if you just want to shot down an aircraft at high altitude with any of their high end systems without worrying about what you are shooting at in a non ECM environment they are very easy pieces of equipment to operate. The Buk is not a new piece of kit (its been kicking around for 30 years) and was widely used by the Soviet Union before 1991 and in Russia and Ukraine afterwards. The system were designed to be operated by conscripted / reservist crews and thus are fitted with a high level of automation (to shot anything down with one of these systems all you have to do is get the system's tracking radar 'on target' and press the fire button as soon as a 'Target in engagement zone' indication comes up and the system will do everything else. While the equipment was also designed for rapid replacement of defective equipment which is very modular in nature and like most Russian equipment is built like a brick sh!thouse. Due to the fact that it was operated by conscripts for best part of 30 years, there will be a sizable pool of people in eastern Ukraine (rebels) who will be able to operate it and most likely a number of ex warrant officers or extended servicemen who where the personnel would normally fixed the things who would be able to maintain it. The main question I would ask is where did the missile system come from! Was it taken across the Russian border by the Russians (or from the Crimea) or was it captured by the rebels from Ukraine stocks in the disputed region. There is footage on the internet of the shootdown, the footage looks genuine and shows the aircraft just after missile impact, there is the smoke cloud from the warhead detonation and the aircraft which looks like a 777 is descending with the inboard section of the starboard wing from the fuselage to the engine and starboard engine on fire.


The report you mentioned is about another plane allegedly shot down on Monday in the Donetsk region

Russian media has reported each of these incidents separately, each time kind of celebrating them as DNR achievements:

The problem with the last two from 17 July is that there was no An-26 shoot down at that day. And these news reports were published just a moment before it became evident that he alleged An-26 came out to be Boeing-777.


Missiles of this type have what is called (at least by the US) a continuous rod warhead. This type of warhead is basically several layers of hardened steel rods wrapped in a special configuration. When the explosive charge goes off just imagine a giant buzz saw blade (multiples) flying through the air in close proximity to the target. When the rods expand to maximum diamater they break apart and turn into individual buzz saws. End result the target is shredded.


A black box isn't going to be of as much use as access to the crash site. Bits of missile warhead buried in the skin panels are the smoking gun, and should clarify which missile hit it.

No votes yet


V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...regarding the investigative team's refusal of access to the larger debris field; things are looking very dicey.
Still, I'll reserve judgement, until more facts are revealed. The static coming from the U.S. is loud and not helpful...

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

was located in my same Administrative Building (in Alaska), and frankly, I think that it was no accident that it was literally two doors down from the Base PR office (called Public Affairs in USAF and USA).

IOW, my observation was that the biggest mission of this department was to provide "cover" to civilian and military leaders.

(The Chief investigator there was a nice enough dude--he gave us a Cockatiel--but he could have taught a class in bureaucratic "double speak.")

Frankly, I haven't followed this at all, not even enough to know what the possible implications are (not 'cause I don't care, just too busy, right now).

So thanks for posting on this.

I still listen pretty regularly to a couple of NPR programs, and they have jumped onto the "propaganda bandwagon," big time--especially in an attempt to discredit Putin. [It's so over-the-top, I thought I'd have to turn them off, Friday.]

BTW, hyperpolarizer (hope that's right)--love your GBS signature line!