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Local expert weighs in on Malaysia Airlines jet attacked

CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- A picture was taken in Amsterdam by an aviation hobbyist.  It was of the same plane shot down over the Ukraine.
    
Tom Edwards is an expert pilot who re-certifies other pilots.  He also teaches at NKU and runs the Flight Depot Pilot Shop at Lunken Airport.  Edwards said it was unlikely the plane, en route to Malaysia, could have been seen by the naked eye when the 777 was above 30,000 feet in the air.
    
But a sophisticated missile system with radar could have easily tracked it.

Edwards told Local 12, "You can see the aircraft many, many miles en route before it gets there.  It's doing about ten miles a minute, about 600 miles an hour.  It's under radar contact with Ukrainian air traffic control, they have talked to it.  And it's a regularly scheduled flight. The route of flight is well-known.  So it was in my opinion a malicious thing, they saw an aircraft and they shot it down."
   
Edwards said whoever operated the missiles had to have background and training.

"More than likely these came on trailers.  They have a building which houses sophisticated equipment.  More than one person runs it," Edwards hypothesized.
    
Edwards said there was no way the Malaysian pilots could have seen the missiles coming, nor could they have initiated any evasive maneuvers.  There were no missile defense systems on the commercial airliners.

"Because they're in the business of flying people, not evading hostile environments," said Edwards.

Next month, the Israeli airline El-Al begins installing a missile defense system called Flight Guard on its airliners.  The system shoots off flares designed to divert heat-seeking missiles away from the airplane.  Because missiles approach so quickly, the system works automatically.  The pilots won't even know the missiles have been deployed until after the fact.

The Boeing 777 jetliner is the same type of Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared March 8 on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.  Searchers are apparently no closer to solving that mystery.

The model has an excellent safety record and is among the most sophisticated airliners flying.  It's the world's largest twin jet with a capacity between 300 and 450 passengers and a range of about 57-hundred miles.
   
The first 777 went into commercial service in 1995.

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