MH-17 – Caught in the middle

It has been a couple of days since Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 crashed in a rebel occupied part of the Ukraine, leaving everybody on board dead. It soon became clear that this crash was not due to pilot error, poor maintenance, material fatigue or a flaw in the construction of aircraft. It was clear from the spread of the pieces that this aircraft broke up into many pieces while still high up in the air.

The attention immediately shifted to an explosion of some sort, be it a missile fired at the aircraft, a bomb in the aircraft, or something causing explosive decompression on such a major scale that the aircraft lost it’s structural integrity.

In the past days we have seen a whole series of reactions to this event: disbelief, insecurity, anger and outrage.


  • that a commercial aircraft can be brought down this way with all these security measures in place in airports all over the world.
  • that an airline would fly an aircraft over territory where other planes had been shot down.
  • that in this world the different organizations for controlling airspace do not work together close enough to all have the same rules in place.
  • that airlines do not use the same rules when it comes to passenger safety.
  • that a group fighting for control in their region would attack people not involved in the fight.
  • that individual groups can apparently get their hands on such powerful weapons.


  • that apparently with all safety measures in place there still is a chance of something like this happening. Several planes were flying that same route, so it could have been any one of them. MH-17 was a random victim in that respect.
  • that even with the planes flying around the hot zone now there is no real way of knowing this will not happen again. How do we know the route is safe? If the battlefield shifts, will we know in time?
  • that news images were showing movement of parts, bodies without anyone knowing where they were moved to.
  • that it all depends on word of mouth to inform everyone without any structured channels for communication.


  • that it took so long to organize access to the crash site.
  • that the debris was touched before it could be photographed, cataloged and placed on a map.
  • that governments were too busy pointing fingers, instead of focusing on getting the site secured, on getting the victims and their belongings back to their loved ones.
  • that a tragedy like this was turned into an attention frenzy by news media.
  • that with all our power in this modern day and age we can’t make a crash site a safe place whereas a group of rebels can keep control.


  • that images showed people believed to be part of the cause were disturbing the scene.
  • that suitcases were opened and searched for content.
  • that items of value appeared to be taken from the bodies.
  • that countries involved promised to help get access to the crash site, help with the investigation, but the words did not appear to be followed by much action.
  • that in days after the crash two military aircraft were shot down, meaning there was nothing learned from what happened.
  • that the victims were not treated with more dignity.

The truth is, though, that there is a civil war going on in Ukraine. A war between the government and a minority group who would rather be part of Russia than Europe. One side appears to be supported by an outside power, even though the ‘outsider’ will do everything they can to deny it. The other side is the government who tries to stop the fight and at the same time get everything back to the way it was before the whole situation started (to be fair, preferably including getting Crimea back as well). The people are caught in the middle. They don’t have any weapons other than their voice, their writing and if they are brave enough, a vote under hostile circumstances.

It is an explosive situation that victimizes the people living there the most. Be it that their family or relatives are soldiers on either side, or that their town has been invaded, their houses have been taken by forces in the area. Nobody can predict how it will all end, who will win and who will loose, if you can even call one a win and the other a loss with victims on all sides.

Whatever perspective you may have on this, flight MH-17 was not involved in this fight. The crew and the passengers were not part of the fight. The passengers were holiday makers, people flying home, people flying to a congress on HIV, or on a business trip, people trying to earn a living.

Severe weather in the region caused the plane to deviate from the normal air corridor. It is something pilots do routinely to keep the passengers safe and to keep the movement of the plane to a minimum, because people tend to find turbulence a little scary.

These pilots tried to keep the flight safe by flying around the storm instead of through it. If only they would have known what consequences their faithful decision would have on the outcome of the flight and the lives on board this silver bird.

Probably, they would have taken an alternate course, maybe fly north of the storm instead of south, it will always remain unanswered.

In the end the simple truth is that MH-17 was caught in the middle of an internal conflict, turning the eye of the world onto the situation and starting the blame game. Let’s face it, nobody wants to admit that they made a mistake that caused 298 people and several animals to have their lives cut short. Even though the intention of the method used is basically to end a human being’s life.

My heart goes out to all of the people who have lost someone due to this tragic event. I can not even begin to understand the pain and grief a sudden loss like this had brought to those who are left behind.

I can only hope that this will result in talks world wide to make sure flying becomes even more secure. I feel the organizations that determine (and protect) the safety of air space need to get together and put regulations in place to warn their partner organizations around the world when they have information that makes them decide to close down air space. With combined flights, or code sharing, going on in commercial aviation it should not matter what airline carries out your flight or what organization they turn to for air space safety information. Also, it shouldn’t be a “Well, they didn’t ask us, so we didn’t tell them.” situation. As requested from any employee in a business, be proactive, not reactive.

Politically, there is a lot more to do, I know. That will be a slow and lengthy process. Let this be an extra step independent of what the politicians do to solve this situation. A responsive measure taken by the aviation branch to show they learn from events involving aircraft, as they pride themselves for doing after most aviation incidents.

About Q.R. Vermeulen

I'm a technical writer and support analyst for Exact Software in the Netherlands. Most of the time I help customers with questions about Exact Cloud Services, the cloud solution for Exact's business applications, giving you access to Exact Globe, Exact Synergy or Exact Financials as a cloud-based product with a subscription payment model. Next to this, I write technical documentation about the Exact Cloud Services, both for customers as well as internal documentation. In my spare time, I do a little programming in PHP and work on my website and this blog. Another hobby of mine is my model railroad. Besides tinkering with model trains, I also like to play on my keyboard and do some reading. As far as outdoor activities go, I like hiking (specially during the summer holidays) and cycling.
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