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Six Takeaways from Today’s Dutch Safety Board MH17 Response

February 25, 2016

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

On February 25, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) published responses to questions asked by the Dutch Parliament on February 4 and 10, along with its response to a letter written by Oleg Storchevoy, the Deputy Director of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency. Many of the questions posed by the Dutch Parliament concern the air traffic control primary radar data from Ukraine and Russia at the time of the tragedy. Along with information about the radar data and the investigative process, there were a handful of responses that provided clarification to questions regarding Russian claims regarding the MH17 case. Additionally, the DSB’s response to the Russian letter reiterated its stance on a number of Russian concerns regarding the investigation, most notably regarding the Buk missiles type and launch site.

The response of Tjibbe Joustra, the Chairman of the DSB, to the Russian letter is, to put it mildly, succinct. The response letter itself is two paragraphs and refers to an eleven-page appendix letter, along with a note that “none of the information provided can be regarded as new and significant evidence.” In other words, the DSB does not find the “new” evidence provided by Russia and its Federal Air Transport Agency sufficiently reliable or noteworthy to contradict the findings of its final report. In the letter’s appendix, the DSB responds every question from Storchevoy by referencing the DSB’s final report, and ending with the sentence “The Dutch Safety Board concludes that on the basis of the arguments put forward, there is no new and significant evidence.”

The DSB’s response to the Dutch Parliament is more revealing. Here are six takeaways from their responses:

1) As previously reported, the investigation has viewed “satellite data” of a missile launch provided by the United States. But no radar data.


Q: Did you ask for or receive satellite data concerning the firing of the missile? If yes, what kind of information does it concern?

A: Two members of the Safety Board have had the opportunity through the MIVD (Dutch Military Intelligence) to take note of classified information that has been provided to the Dutch security services. The studied information is in line with the conclusions that the Safety Board has taken, based on other research information.

Q: Can it be clarified which United States radar and satellite data has been received?

A: The Safety Board has not requested radar data from the US (see table 8 of the report “MH17 Crash”). With regard to satellite data, the Safety Board is bound to secrecy.

2) The DSB has “explicitly” ruled out the possibility of military aircraft (e.g. a Ukrainian Su-25) within 30km of MH17

q-13 q49

Q: Are you familiar with the fact that in the news broadcasts of RTL and Nieuwsuur, TV Zvezda, Russia Today, Channel One (all three from the Russian Federation), (Ukraine), BBC Russia, and Paris Match, recognizable witnesses clearly state that they saw one or more military planes near MH17?

A: The Safety Board is aware of this. Based on multiple sources, it has been able to establish the cause of the crash of flight MH17 and has explicitly ruled out other possible causes, including the presence of military aircraft in the immediate vicinity of flight MH17.”

Q: Why is the text about the absence of a military aircraft removed after Russian intervention? Does that mean that there was still the possibility of a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH17 (appendix V)?

A: On page 279, the Safety Board concludes that no evidence has been found that there were other aircraft, civilian or military, in the direct vicinity of flight MH17. On page 136 of the report, it is noted that within 30km of flight MH17 no (military) aircraft were present at the time of the crash.

3) The DSB mapped the front lines of the conflict to determine who controlled the Buk launch site


Q: During the presentation of the report, the chairman of the DSB said that the rocket came from separatist-held territory and that this is apparent from maps. Currently, there are no maps of the front lines in the report. Can the DSB indicate which areas in the potential launch area were controlled by the rebels?

A: Thereby, reference was made in figure 65 in the report, which practically coincides with the area controlled by separatists in July 2014.

The map that the DSB is referring to in its response can be seen below. As we know from various reports of fighting in mid-July, there were numerous pockets of Ukrainian control within the “area of armed conflict,” depicted as orange in the map below. It is unclear exactly where the DSB believes separatist control begins and ends near the launch location.


4) The circular holes on the wreckage are smaller than half the size of 30mm cannon holes


Q: Is there also penetration damage on pieces of wreckage (appendix X) that could have been caused by an on-board cannon?

A: In appendix X it is concluded that the damage that has been detected on pieces of wreckage does not match the damage that is caused by an on-board cannon when it comes to the number of hits, the density of the hits, the direction of the hits, and the type of damage. Concerning the type of damage, it is noted that the armor-piercing projectiles have a diameter of 23 to 30mm. The average size of the impacts is 11mm. An armor-piercing shell of 23 to 30mm cannot produce an impact of 11mm.

5) The DSB used both Google Earth and other satellite imagery, including classified materials


Q: Which countries have been asked for satellite images of MH17 during the crash and what other countries have supplied them to the DSB?

A: In the investigation, an overview photograph of the crash site originating from various satellite images was used. Initially, work was done with images from Google Earth. Later on, the DSB was able to see other (classified) satellite images, with which the images of Google Earth could be verified. The DSB is bound to secrecy when it concerns satellite data.

6) Neither the Ukrainian flight traffic data nor the cockpit voice recorder data (from the black box) were manipulated with


Q: Has it been ruled out that the received transcripts on the contact between the Ukrainian air traffic controller and flight MH17 have been manipulated with in any way?

A: Yes, the Safety Board has been able to rule that out. The Safety Board has the ‘cockpit voice recorder’ on which the conversations between the pilot of MH17 and the Ukrainian air traffic controller are recorded. In its research, the Board concludes that there are no indications of manipulation of the recorders. The Board also has copies of the tapes with conversation between the air traffic controller of Ukraine and flight MH17. The information on these tapes matches that of the ‘cockpit voice recorder.’

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  1. stranger

    I believe an occasional mistake infiltrated to the article above, because the link “a letter written by Oleg Storchevoy” directs to the news dated Sep 2014 which is absolutely irrelevant to the letter in question written in Jan 2016.
    The letter in question with 12 page appendix can be found here:
    It is far more substantial, and is interesting, because Storchevoy arguments the claims, which is somehow missed by DSB answers, which mostly were copy paste the report.

  2. LongGoneJohn

    My page 136 is about air to air missiles rather than the question if other (military) planes were present. Page 279 also makes no mention of other (military) planes being present.

    Am I looking at the wrong DSB document?

  3. muchandr

    Flight recorder investigation very much manipulated here is the final record text I used

    See the claim of missile hit on the cockpit immediately cutting the power to both flight recorders situated in the tail section. This is impossible for any recent US built plane, with federal regulations requiring them to have enough battery power to operate an underwater beacon for at least 30 days

    You can actually see the sizeable battery next to the actual recorder, ie there always seem to be two distinct parts to the things. Why would they do that? Take a look at page 6 showing a map of debris. Most are right next to supposed position the missile hit near Rozsypne (last FDR point), but for some point to the N of it, even though the plane flew into SE or E as possible directions. The furthest away debris are 8-9 km straight to the E of last FDR point at 13:20 in two smaller clusters next to the village of Hrabove, where the official #MH17 monument now is.

    The supposed scenario with plane or parts of the plane falling closer to missile impact that the height shed are impossible due to cruising speed of Boing 777 being 0.84 / 250-260 m/s Planes do not fall from the sky like bricks! The suggested scenario of losing 10 km in 1 – 1.5 is exactly that. 10000 / 90 gives downward speed of only 111 m/s on the average. What happened to the forward part of momentum? Laws of conservation?

    What really happens to the plane in vertical free fall Here is a good freefall calculator

    where you are welcome to plug for example 245 tons for loaded 777, 9 sqm cross section and for example 0.5 (sphere in turbulent flow) or 1 for brick or 0.2 for a car.
    You can see that the result is most sensitive to the drag coefficient usually not included in calculations, but you can see that no matter what you do, you’ll get terminal velocities severely in excess of speed of sound of 343 m/s. In other words they are a lot more likely to accelerate than slow down. In fact, it is likely this approaching of critical velocity that causes planes flying uncontrollable to disintegrate likely the same here.

    The above applies to any mass falling together, the severely streamlined shapes like airplanes but also surfaces of revolution like just a cylindrical aircraft cabin is one have a volumetric drag coefficient which also gives area equal to internal volume to the power of 2/3 Details here. I haven’t found a freefall calculator for airliners with wings broken off yet, but details here

    All this basically means a large aircraft will accelerate even harder than freefall of so much mass suggests because it experiences very low drag. As long as it stays in one piece.

    So, why would anybody want to manipulate this? Because if MH17 was hit earlier
    along its flight path

    and not ended up instantaneously on the ground right where it was hit like they are saying now, there are a whole batteries of Ukranian Buks in range of having taken that shot. Just looking at the places where they had a radar and a command vehicles gives Kramatorsk airfield and Avdiivka, where 1st battalion of Ukranian 156th AA is normally based. Here the later seen escaping with all the missiles expended

    posted on 20th, exact timing unknown. Location Lozova about halfway between Donezk and Kharkiv. How is it different from Luhansk separatist Buk? All the Buks that shot at anything seem to scram around that time. I’ll tell you how. It is supposed to be impossible for a single M1-generation TELAR to target that plane due to restriction in elevation of 7 degrees. Any interest to see calculations (again)

    • Concerned Citizen

      I have always thought it is nonsense that a stand alone BUK without a radar unit can function in anything other than an emergency self defence mode.

      Like it could take out low flying ground attack planes and helicopters flying towards it, but that’s all.


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