02:59 - Source: CNN
Report: Plane hit by 'High energy objects'

Story highlights

Report into MH17's crash says everything -- but nothing about the criminals behind its downing

CNN's Richard Quest asks how it can explain the incident without using the word missile

The report goes into great detail about the plane's flight over Ukraine, the bad weather, and the black box

Quest says the report shows the plane was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time

Editor’s Note: Richard Quest is CNN’s foremost international business correspondent and presenter of Quest Means Business. He is also CNN’s airline and aviation correspondent. Follow him on Twitter.

New York CNN —  

The report into Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 says everything. And yet it says nothing about the cause of the plane’s crash and the criminals. It tells us that MH17 was brought down by “high energy objects” which were of “external causes” and never once uses the word missile. How can this be?

The purpose of the preliminary report is not to apportion blame; that is left to prosecutors and courts who deal with those who caused this atrocity. This investigation is all about finding out what happened and making sure it never happens again.

Richard Quest
Richard Quest

Once you understand that, reading the report makes sense. There is a great deal about how the plane got to be flying where it was, how engine oil was added in Amsterdam airport before MH17 flew into Ukraine and some thundershowers. The report details how the plane was flying legally, over eastern Ukraine and in unrestricted air space. That point is made again and again, lest anyone wants to suggest otherwise.

The reports goes into the routine progression of the flight. How the pilots asked for a slight change of course to the left to avoid bad weather, then air traffic control re-directed them to avoid other planes in the area. Indeed, the report makes clear that there were three other large commercial planes in the area, two 777s and an A330. MH17 was the victim of the awfulness of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Hauntingly, when you read the transcript of the air traffic control communications, there were no warnings, no maydays, nothing. The plane just disintegrated after being hit by those “high energy objects.” It is left to the air traffic controller in Russia, who comments minutes after the incident, that it seemed as if the radar signature “started falling apart.” Other air traffic controllers say “it’s disappeared.”

I have read many air traffic accident reports. In this report they have to make clear that the so-called black box’s unique digital signature was correct for this aircraft. In other words, this was the right flight data recorder for that aircraft. The report made clear it had been neither switched nor tampered with.

This report is stark because it shows just how normal everything was until the second when the “external causes” hit. There is no long discussion about performance of engines, as they start to go wrong, no analysis of pilots actions as complex avionics start to flash warnings. Just the sad, awful fact that at 13:20 the plane was blasted out of the sky.

And it never says the word missile.

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