Dutch aviation investigators have released their initial findings on the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 crash, which occurred on July 17th and claimed 298 lives. The report confirmed the plane was shot down, but it also showed the pilots were asked to climb to 35,000 feet and denied the request from Air Traffic Control.

According to the report, three other commercial flights were in the area, but MH17 was the lowest in the immediate area. As the flight traveled eastbound, they were asked to climb to FL350 (35,000 feet) because another Boeing 777 was approaching them from behind. The MH17 crew said they were unable to comply, and requested to maintain FL330. This was agreed to by Dnipro control, who then asked the other 777 to climb to FL350. This flight complied.

The report doesn't say which other airlines were in the area, only the aircraft types. But it's easy to imagine the potential role reversal if MH17 had followed the ATC request to climb, leaving this other 777 at FL330 and flying the sane direction. At the time of the incident, there was a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) in place, restricting flight below 32,000 feet due to hostility in the region. Following the incident, the FAA established a no-fly zone below 35,000 feet. It's important to remember that at the time of the crash, the plane was in unrestricted airspace, under ATC control, and on the ATC-approved flight path. There was no fault made by the Malaysia Airlines crew.


MH17 debris field

As suspected, the damage found was "consistent with being punctured by high-energy objects." The surface-to-air missile used in the attack would have detonated near the aircraft, sending thousands of projectiles into the plane and causing it to break apart. We still don't know exactly who fired the missile, from where, or the exact type of missile used. The investigation is ongoing, but hampered because the international team of air safety investigators has still not been granted access to the wreckage sites. No forensic work has been done, and the preliminary report was provided based on photos taken between July 19-21, 2014.

Top photo via Associated Press