Investigators have concluded that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 broke up in the air after sustaining substantial damage to its cockpit and forward fuselage from high-energy projectiles.
The Dutch Safety Board, leading the inquiry into the 17 July loss of the Boeing 777-200ER, says that that a “large number of high-energy objects” penetrated the forward section of the jet.
“It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break-up,” it states in its preliminary report.
There was “no indication”, it adds, of any technical or operational issue, and no evidence of cockpit alerts to the pilots, before the cockpit-voice and flight-data recordings ended “abruptly” just after 16:20 local time as the aircraft passed over eastern Ukraine.
“Crew communication gave no indication that there was anything abnormal with the flight,” the inquiry says.
MH17 had been flying at 33,000ft at 293kt with both Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines operating at cruise power.
The Dutch Safety Board has not stated specifically the origin or precise nature of the projectiles but its statement is consistent with initial government-level claims that the 777 was destroyed by the fragmenting warhead of a surface-to-air missile.
None of the 283 passengers and 15 crew members survived the break-up of the aircraft.