A preliminary report into the causes of the MH17 tragedy has confirmed the aircraft was penetrated from outside, in line with suspicions it was shot down by either side of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The report, released by the Dutch Safety Board (DBS) who is leading the investigation, said damage found on the wreckage “appears to indicate that there were impacts from a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft” and that "the pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was not consistent with the damage that would be expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines or systems.”
Despite initial concerns the ill-fated plane’s black boxes may have been tampered with by pro-Russian separatists trying to conceal the crime, the report said both devices had shown no signs of manipulation.
The black box cockpit voice recorder (CVR) providing a record of pilots' conversations "gave no indication of any malfunction or emergency" before the crash.
Similarly, the black box flight data recorder (FDR) showed no evidence of technical malfunctions or warnings. Both recordings ended at three seconds past 1.20pm local time.
At the time of the crash, the aircraft was flying at a height of 33,000ft in the eastern part of Ukraine on a constant heading and speed.
At the time of the crash, the Boeing 777 crew was in radio communication with air traffic controllers (ATC) at the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk discussing route adjustments due to weather and other traffic in the area.
The DBS further concluded that the way pieces of aircraft debris had been scattered across a rather large area suggested the Boeing 777 shot down en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, must have disintegrated while airborne.
A total of 298 people, including ten Britons, died in the July 17 incident, which came only weeks after another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared over the Indian Ocean.
Due to the on-going conflict in the area, Dutch investigators have not been able to access the crash site and had to rely on photographs of the wreckage obtained by their Ukrainian partners. Satellite images have also aided the DSB.
"The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash,” DSB chairman Tjibbe Joustra said today. “More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision. The board believes that additional evidence will become available for investigation in the period ahead."
The final report into the tragic disaster is expected to be released in a year.
Flight MH17 report infographic