Opening Brief Filed in Appeal to Stop Construction of New Parallel Runway at Hillsboro

The red box below presents a copy of the latest Post by Oregon Aviation Watch. It concerns the construction of a new parallel runway at Hillsboro Airport in Oregon [KHIO].

Two facts are driving this unnecessary construction:

  1. FAA has free money to award. Well, sort of free. FAA collects billions every year from airline passenger fees and air cargo taxes, and then doles out these funds to airport projects all over the country. Many times, though, these AIP projects are not needed and are actually just ‘pork’ used to create temporary jobs and help reelect incumbent officials. Sort of like ‘bridges to nowhere’.
  2. The Hillsboro parallel runway is NOT needed at all. In fact, this airport has seen a substantial reduction in itinerant air traffic operations (takeoffs and landings) in the past two decades. In 2013, there were 73,000 itinerant operations, down 24% from the peak year 1997, when there were 96,000 itinerant operations. KHIO has an exceptionally high portion of local ‘training pattern’ flights, mostly connected with Hillsboro Aviation’s helicopter pilot program. [BTW, this mirrors the national trend, where  total operations are down 25% from the year 2000]

In its ongoing quest for consideration of the local community and accountability in the proposed expansion of Hillsboro Airport, Oregon Aviation Watch has filed its opening brief in its latest appeal.

In keeping with their characteristically cavalier attitude towards using public money to promote private business interests at the Hillsboro Airport (HIO), the Port of Portland (Port) began constructing a third runway in early August. The purpose of the runway is to accommodate flight training primarily on behalf of Hillsboro Aviation – a company that recruits students from around the globe then proceeds to train them over our homes and neighborhoods. Recreational pilots are also major beneficiaries of this arrangement.

The more than $17 million lavished on the Port to cover the costs of this expansion are publicly subsidized in large part with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funds and ConnectOregon handouts.

Earlier this summer, Oregon Aviation Watch filed a motion for an injunction pending a decision on the merits of the case so that the case could be reviewed by the court prior to construction. Unfortunately, our petition was denied. Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed by this ruling.

Nonetheless, after careful deliberation and in light of a recent outpouring of contributions from the community in response to our 7/31/14 email fundraising request, Oregon Aviation Watch has decided to move forward with the challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) conclusion that adding a third runway at the Hillsboro Airport will have no significant impact on the human environment.

Though we fell short of our $9,000 goal, the contributions received so far have bolstered our confidence in our ability to raise enough money to cover legal expenses. Sean Malone, Attorney for Oregon Aviation Watch, submitted our opening brief on 8/11/14.

Oregon Aviation Watch is urging the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to moving forward with this project. In the 84 years, during which HIO has grown from a grassy airstrip into the largest general aviation airport in the state, the Port of Portland has never taken a hard look nor has it engaged in a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the environmental impacts of this facility.

We are sincerely grateful to all community members who have supported Oregon Aviation Watch and other airport appeals in the past. Your willingness to stand behind this effort is sincerely appreciated and your words of encouragement along the way have been invaluable.

We still need to raise additional money. This is an all volunteer effort. All contributions go directly towards covering legal costs. Thank you for your support! Donations can be sent to:

Oregon Aviation Watch
PO Box 838
Banks, Oregon 97106

Contributions can also be made by clicking on the menu bar DONATE button at

Oregon Aviation Watch is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax exempt. Our Tax ID Number is 27-3131841.

…and here are links to the many informative Posts done by OAW in the past five months…

Oregon Aviation Watch has been tireless in their efforts to get FAA, the Port of Portland, and a few community officials to listen to those who are impacted at Hillsboro. The vast majority of KHIO’s toxic lead and excessive noise is being created by the Hillsboro Aviation flight instruction program. And, much of it is by especially noisy low-altitude helicopters. Many people are being adversely impacted, while just a few are reaping enormous financial profits. This is exactly the sort of airport expansion for which Congress insisted FAA must fully engage impacted citizens. And yet, FAA and the Port of Portland are working together to disempower those same citizens.

If you are concerned about the situation at Hillsboro in particular or the abuse of power by aviation officials in general, please consider helping Oregon Aviation Watch with the costs of their legal efforts. Here is a link to the OAW donation webpage.

“…someone ought to be asking some serious questions of the FAA”

LeehamNews is a Seattle-based blog that offers steady, thoughtful insight into Boeing, Airbus, other commercial aircraft manufacturers, and related topics. In a 8/19/2014 Post, LeehamNews points out FAA inconsistencies in imposing airspace bans, from Ukraine to Syria to Ferguson, MO. Here is a copy:

FAA overflights: It’s big news here in the USA, likely far less so in the rest of the world: the racial unrest in the small Missouri town of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, where an unarmed 18-year African-American male was shot six times by a white policeman. Police say the young man attacked a police office. Witnesses say he had his hands up to comply with the officer’s orders. A grand jury will attempt to sort out facts. In the meantime, demonstrations–some peaceful, some not, some with looting–have turned Ferguson into an armed camp of police looking like the Army, in Humvees, battle gear and automatic weapons.

The US Federal Aviation Administration quickly instituted a low-level flight ban over Ferguson.

Then yesterday, we received a call from the Voice of America asking us to comment on the FAA issuing a flight ban over Syria, a war zone, where combat has been underway for three years.

This comes, of course, after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine.

Over the decades, the FAA has been criticized as being a “tombstone” agency: wait until people die before implementing a rule to save lives. While mostly hyperbole, the characterization, like most cliches, is rooted in basis of fact.

When VOA called, we were, to be frank, gobsmacked the FAA hadn’t previously banned Syrian overflights. Prior to Ukraine, can anyone think of any place on earth where there was a more dangerous combat zone where overflights might not be a good idea?

We’re loath to encourage a hack Congress to do much of anything these days, but someone ought to be asking some serious questions of the FAA.

Florida Airports are Particularly Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise

If there is one U.S. state whose airports are most vulnerable to climate change, it is Florida, where many significant airports are at very low elevation. The busiest Florida airport, KMIA in Miami, is at 9-feet elevation. The state’s fifth-busiest airport, KFLL in Fort Lauderdale,**The airport at Fort Lauderdale is undergoing an $800 Million project to expand one of the runways. The design includes elevating the runway, with bridges over where the extended runway crosses railroad tracks and a major highway (US Highway 1). This may be the first of many necessary and very expensive projects to elevate Florida runways. It seems doubtful that our economy will remain capable of funding such large aviation projects in another decade or two. is also at just 9-feet elevation. The state’s sixth-busiest airport, KTMB to the southwest of Miami, sits at just 10-feet elevation.

As atmospheric CO2 continues to climb, it is expected that the massive amounts of ice on Greenland and Antarctica will continue to melt. The rates of melting in the past decade have increased substantially, and some now believe that we have passed a tipping point — that the meltoff is irreversible. If so, sea levels around the world are expected to rise by dozens of feet. Of course, how quickly the sea levels rise depends on how quickly the ice melts or slides off into the adjacent seas.

Considering the vulnerability of Florida aviation to climate change sea-level rise, it is shocking to see the diversity of reactions by Floridians. On the one extreme, Senator Marco Rubio is in full denial. Yet, on the other extreme, a major Christian group is bucking the conservative trend and speaking of how we have a moral and religious obligation to protect our environment:

“…Climate change just isn’t in faraway places. Florida, your home, literally represents “ground zero.” Sea level rise, more extreme weather, saltwater contaminated wells, loss of farm land and increased air pollution all pose significant threats to the health and well-being of Floridians. Unfortunately, a few in our nation are attempting to portray addressing climate change as a liberal issue. It’s not. It’s a moral challenge to all Americans. It is a call to follow our Risen Lord and act to prepare for the impacts, many of which are already happening, and to work to reduce our carbon pollution to help our children, now and in the future….”

One other area of the U.S. that is especially vulnerable: New York City. The three busiest airports there all average more than 1,000 operations per day and include: KEWR in Newark at 10-feet elevation, KJFK (Kennedy) in New York in Jamaica at 12-feet elevation, and KLGA (LaGuardia) at 12-feet elevation (and with one runway end at just 7-feet elevation).

Links to three recent articles:


FAA’s Culture of Unaccountability: The PIX11 Investigative Series, by Mario Diaz

20140730.. Still No Answers, Whitaker (PIX11 Investigates, by Mario Diaz)One of the few journalists today pressing FAA with hard questions is Mario Diaz, at Pix11 TV in the New York market. Mr. Diaz has been investigating a pattern within FAA where air traffic controllers found partially responsible for fatal accidents are put right back to work and are not held accountable.

The fifth in a series of investigative reports aired in the New York market on July 30th. It includes an interview of FAA’s Deputy Administrator, Michael Whitaker, after he had spoken at a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation hearing.

Click here for links to the other investigative reports in this series.

Weather Data for the Extreme Rainfall Event at Islip [KISP], 8-13-2014

Wednesday morning brought record rainfall amounts to much of the northeastern U.S. The one major commercial airport most at the center of the event was at Islip, NY, at the Long Island MacArthur Airport [KISP].

20140813.. Rain event flooding Sunrise Highway near Rte-111 [KISP]

People look on as a car remains flooded on Sunrise Highway at Route 111 following heavy rains and flash flooding Aug. 13, 2014 in Islip, N.Y. (Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)

The weather records are copied below, from the NWS website. Red text has been added to highlight weather likely to significantly delay (or even fully stop) commercial aviation operations. This includes strong gusting winds (e.g., 21G31 means a 21 knot windspeed with gusts to 31 knots), low visibilities (below a mile), heavy rain (+RA), fog (FG), mist (BR), and of course heavy rainfall rates.

The rainfall amounts are nothing short of astounding. The table shows that weather observations were recorded typically four times per hour, and there are many records showing rain falling at rates of more than three inches per hour, and a peak rate of 5.34 inches per hour!

time EDT temp dew wind-dir knots VSBY weather clouds altimeter hr rain
12:56 am 71 64 SE 21G31 7.00 -RA FEW095 BKN110 29.90 0.03
1:56 am 68 62 SE 13 5.00 RA FEW029 BKN100 OVC120 29.88 0.13
2:51 am 66 63 E 7 2.50 VCTS +RA BR SCT034 BKN075 OVC100 29.85 0.23
2:56 am 66 63 E 9 2.00 VCTS +RA BR BKN034 BKN055 OVC090 29.84 0.35
3:11 am 66 63 ENE 13 2.50 +RA BR FEW019 BKN035 OVC048 29.80 0.19
3:20 am 66 64 ENE 13G20 4.00 +RA BR FEW021 OVC037 29.80 0.25
3:34 am 66 64 ENE 15G21 3.00 +RA BR BKN016 BKN026 OVC039 29.77 0.32
3:38 am 68 64 ENE 15 2.50 +RA BR FEW006 BKN016 OVC036 29.77 0.36
3:54 am 70 66 NE 16G25 3.00 +RA BR FEW008 BKN014 OVC031 29.74 0.52
3:56 am 69 67 NE 20G25 3.00 +RA BR SCT008 BKN014 OVC031 29.74 0.54
4:19 am 70 66 VRBL 5 4.00 +RA BR BKN006 OVC017 29.74 0.10
4:38 am 70 66 NNE 21G25 2.50 +RA BR OVC006 29.72 0.35
4:53 am 68 66 N 17G26 1.50 +RA BR OVC010 29.73 0.70
4:56 am 68 66 N 15G25 1.25 +RA BR OVC010 29.73 0.84
5:08 am 68 66 NE 9G21 0.75 +RA BR SCT005 OVC010 29.76 0.67
5:16 am 66 66 N 20G30 0.50 +RA FG BKN005 OVC010 29.74 1.44
5:26 am 68 66 N 24G33 0.50 +RA FG VV006 29.71 2.31
5:39 am 70 68 E 10G44 0.50 +RA FG VV005 29.75 3.53
5:56 am 68 67 NNE 17 0.50 +RA FG VV006 29.73 5.34
6:13 am 68 66 NNW 13G23 0.50 +RA FG VV007 29.75 1.33
6:35 am 68 66 NNE 13 0.75 +RA BR VV009 29.73 3.12
6:47 am 68 68 E 9 0.50 +RA FG VV011 29.72 3.84
6:56 am 69 68 E 6 0.50 +RA FG VV012 29.72 4.37
7:31 am 70 68 NNE 8 0.75 +RA BR FEW004 BKN009 OVC021 29.70 1.21
7:43 am 70 68 NE 12G28 2.50 -RA BR OVC007 29.69 1.47
7:56 am 71 69 ESE 16G30 9.00   OVC007 29.69 1.48
8:04 am 72 70 SE 18G36 8.00   SCT007 BKN012 OVC023 29.68  
8:56 am 72 69 SSE 23G35 4.00 -RA BR BKN010 OVC023 29.68 0.01
9:12 am 72 70 SSE 12G43 0.50 +RA FG BKN010 OVC023 29.68 0.05
9:19 am 73 70 SSE 17G28 0.50 -RA BR BKN008 BKN012 OVC023 29.67 0.15
9:56 am 73 70 SSE 28G36 5.00 -RA BR BKN008 BKN012 OVC023 29.68 0.15

If severe weather events like this are becoming more frequent, and if this trend continues, how might his impact aviation? Do we need to take serious action, to change our high-consumption lifestyles and economies? If we continue to do nothing, what will our grandchildren face?

The Astounding Athletic Power of Quadcopters

A TEDtalk by Raffaello D’Andrea, this is really a technological magic show.

Mr. D’Andrea is Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. He demonstrates many amazing capabilities of the simplest (and cheapest) drone technology: the quadcopter.

I will not mention all that he does because much of the pleasure of this video is in the series of surprises, and the anticipatory “Wow! … What will he do next?” But he does clearly demonstrate that these devices are exceptionally nimble to the point that one can easily be flown through space and around obstacles to serve a glass of wine without spilling a drop.

Really amazing stuff, and this was posted more than a year ago, in June 2013.

One of the most fascinating details of this 16-minute video is how quiet these small drones are. Here is a man, standing on a stage with a microphone hanging below his ear and he has four (or more?) small drones flying at the same time. Yet, you hear his voice — as well as the crowd applause — clearly, crisply, easily. In other words, these devices are so quiet, they put helicopters to shame. This excellent demonstration makes it so clear that unmanned drones are a vastly superior platform for aerial imagery, search and rescue, crop/land assessment, and other positive applications. As for the potentially negative applications (police-state surveillance, privacy invasion, small weapons delivery, etc.), …well, these are matters that CLEARLY FAA SHOULD NOT BE handling in the Public interest. These matters need to be managed by a better agency and/or a system of actual laws, not by a system of bureaucratically managed rules.

Despite how far this technology has advanced, and despite the fact that from Long Island to L.A. people are increasingly upset about minimally regulated helicopter noise, FAA continues to obstruct the use of drones. Why? Because FAA is in the business of promoting traditional aviation modes, piloted by real people who regularly die when flight missions go bad. FAA foolishly obstructs aviation progress, so as to sustain jobs for pilots. If this was a century ago, FAA would be putting the kibosh on automobiles to maintain farrier and wagon-maintenance jobs.

A Closer Look at the Man behind this TEDtalk

According to his CV, Professor D’Andrea earned a B.Sc. at the University of Toronto in 1991, in Engineering Science. He earned subsequent degrees at Caltech (M.Sc. in 1992, and a PhD in 1997, both in Electrical Engineering). He was a cofounder of Kiva Systems, which Amazon acquired in March 2012 for $775 Million.

Take a look at the short video below and see how these smart  robotic systems can efficiently navigate through a large warehouse, avoiding collisions while delivering items for final packaging. One watches and realizes why Amazon is so keen on setting up low-altitude package delivery systems in public airspace … perhaps even to your front door.

July Was a Bad Month for U.S. Aviation Accidents

In July 2014, there were 34 fatal aviation accidents in the U.S, killing 50 people. This compares to 21 aviation accidents killing 39 people in July 2013.

This pattern is particularly disturbing because, just a few months ago, we were on course for a marked reduction in aviation accidents for the year. In the first quarter, fatal accidents declined from 52 to 33, and fatalities declined from 97 to 58 year-to-year. But since then, the history suggests 2014Q1 was an anomaly, made safe by pilots simply doing a lot less flying.

Fatal Accidents:

The increase in July may be random and not statistically significant, but if the increase indicates a growing problem, what is driving this change?

  • Is it worsening weather? Are we seeing more intense weather phenomena, perhaps related to climate change? Maybe. The North Captiva Island crash on 7/16/2014 appears to have been weather-related. But, on the other hand, this accident would not have happened had the pilot decided to NOT fly so close to (and possible even within) a thunderstorm.
  • Is it related to aviation events? Partially. There were three fatal accidents flying to the EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh (see 7/26/2014, 7/28/2014, & 7/31/2014). There was a midair collision in Idaho, apparently related to a back-country fly-in (see 7/7/2014).
  • Which particular sectors stand out for more accidents? There were three fatal accidents involving agricultural planes (see 7/1/2014, 7/18/2014, and 7/23/2014). Another HEMS multi-fatality happened during dark middle-of-night conditions (see 7/17/2014). But, the one sector that really increased was regular GA recreational flying, including both factory-built and experimental aircraft, typically killing one or two, most of whom were retirement-aged males.
  • Is it related to the economy and the cost of fuel? Possibly. Just like drivers/homeowners with automobiles, when money is tight, repairs are delayed and minor risks ignored until they become larger risks. It is also interesting to note that during the first two quarters of 2014, fatal accidents and total fatalities were substantially below 2013. A simple explanation might be costs are taking a big bite out of flying interest. It costs money to keep a plane ready to fly, so perhaps the pilots are delaying the start of their flying season until the weather warms up, and THEN getting out and flying more intensively. This may put them a bit out of practice.

It seems reasonable to expect that lack of pilot practice might increase accident rates. Not just physical practices like thorough pre-flight inspections, but also the critical mental practice of making the key decision: do I fly or do I wait?

Rotor Blade tree pruning and the Height-Velocity Diagram for the MD500 Helicopter

Two recent helicopter accidents, involving commercial contractors, highlight the need for improved safety standards. In an accident that happened in Ohio, on July 29th, a helicopter crashed while doing aerial tree pruning, needlessly injuring a helicopter pilot. In the other helicopter accident, near Wenatchee, WA on July 23rd, a pilot was killed when he crashed while flying low over trees to air-dry a cherry crop. Both accidents would not have happened if FAA and NTSB were properly regulating the helicopter industry.

20140729.. pic demonstrating rough limb pruning by Rotor BladeThis Ohio accident shows a system used by a company (Rotor Blade) to trim off tree limbs to form tall facewalls, such as along powerlines. As shown in the photo of a pine tree at right, the quick pruning is rough, leaving large stubs.

The cutting system is a tall stack of blades, said to spin at roughly 5,000 rotations per minute. The blades appear to be between 24-30″ in diameter.20140729.. pic demonstrating large blade system used by Rotor Blade20140729.. pic demonstrating MD500 takeoff by Rotor BladeIn the accident in Ohio on 7/29/2014, the Rotor Blade helicopter had been hired to prune the forest edge along a new recreational trail. The MD500 lost power and fell into the trees. The pilot was injured, but likely would have been killed, if not for the way the trees slowed his crash.

According to the Height-Velocity Diagram created by the manufacturer and approved by FAA, the pilot was clearly supposed to avoid operations such as this tree pruning. The red ellipse marks the approximate flight parameters for tree pruning: at roughly 100-ft altitude and with slow speeds, typically less than 5-10 knots … which is right in the most dangerous area of the cross-hatched ‘AVOID’ portion of the diagram! Note that the recommended flight profile (marked in green) indicates the helicopter should have been travelling with a speed of at least 60 knots when at the 100-ft altitude for pruning.
20140730.. Height-Velocity Diagram for MD500, with markups
A similar height/velocity diagram for the Bell 206 helicopter makes the same point: pilots are to avoid low/slow operations, such as using helicopters to dry cherries.

So, Why do Accidents Like this Continue to Happen?

Mostly because FAA and NTSB continue to ignore this inappropriate use of helicopters. The pilots fly to make money and build flight hours that help them eventually get better jobs. If they protest the safety, the operator just replaces them with another pilot. The pilots cut safety corners and just ‘hope’ that nothing bad happens while they are flying their jobs. Meanwhile, the insurance companies and the operators do just like FAA: they pretend to not notice the safety problems. If anything happens, hey, blame it on the pilot. And the public agencies who hire these dangerous contractors? They, too, look the other way, assuming that by hiring a contractor, they are not culpable for the injuries and fatalities that eventually result. It is sort of a ‘safety trickle-down’, where the margin of safety reduces to near-zero.

Is There a Better Way?

Yes. Some jobs are practically done with helicopters, and some are not. This tree pruning system looks to be a bad idea. Why pay a company to do a fast but crude job pruning trees with helicopters, when it can be done to a much higher quality while employing trained professionals and using much less energy? If FAA and NTSB would press harder to reduce helicopter fatalities, the helicopter operators would not be allowed to fly this way. And, as a big benefit, there would be more real, physical jobs for tree-service professionals who are not aviators.

NEWSCLIP-2014-07-27: Buffalo News Op/Ed About FAA’s Regulatory Capture

And, again, the Federal Aviation Administration looks to be trying to weaken the new flight safety rules enacted by Congress in the aftermath of the deadly 2009 crash in Clarence Center. It’s becoming routine, and the FAA is beginning to show what appear to be its true colors – more concerned with satisfying the airline industry than it is in ensuring air safety.

Let’s be clear: Fifty people died here because of poor pilot training. Flight Capt. Marvin D. Renslow took the exact opposite action the situation required when Continental Connection Flight 3407 stalled due to dangerously slow air speed. That’s why the Families of Flight 3407 campaigned and, with the muscular help of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., fought for legislation increasing training requirements for new pilots.

The law was passed and virtually since that day, the airlines, the FAA and even some in Congress have sought to subvert it. Schumer has helped to fight back against those efforts and we presume he will monitor this latest maneuver to ensure that the law is fully implemented.

Industry leaders are shedding crocodile tears about a lack of pilots because of the new training requirements. Basically, they want to continue, as much as possible, operating in the same way: underpaying and overworking pilots whose training doesn’t cost too much. It’s a cynical game whose consequence played out in Clarence Center five years ago.

This issue cries out not just for our congressional delegation and the Families of Flight 3407 to stand firm on this issue, but for Congress to evaluate the function and performance of the FAA. If it has been so badly infiltrated by the airline industry that it cannot reliably implement safety laws passed by Congress and supported by Americans, then perhaps its mission and organizational structure – including its lines of accountability – need to be re-evaluated.

The crash of Flight 3407 was a watershed moment. Too many Americans are being flown on regional carriers, profiting the large airlines at the expense of passengers whose safety has been placed in the hands of inadequately trained, poorly compensated cockpit crews.

That changed with the ensuing legislation. It needs to stay changed.

This content is a copy of a Op/Ed, copied from:
Minor text modifications (and annotations) may have been made by


ANALYSIS: High-Altitude Shoot-Downs in Ukraine Started Just 3-Days Before the MH17 Crash

20140717.. MH17 debris and investigators in wheat field 7-22-14For the past ten days, the world has witnessed an intensive propaganda war where both sides are trying to spin the story of how MH17 ended up widely scattered over wheatfields and farms in east Ukraine. The one known element of the story is that the Boeing 777 was shot down. The consensus is that the source was a ground-based Russian-made SA-11 missile, also known as a BUK or ‘gadfly’, but it is also conceivable that the aircraft was shot down air-to-air.

On the one side we see the Russians and pro-Russian rebels, who are seeking to separate from Ukraine. On the other side we see Ukraine. And there are other players, such as the U.S., whose top officials have satellite imagery and other advanced intelligence and certainly know far more than they are sharing with the Public.

One core element of the spin aims to create plausible deniability for the prospect of involvement by major states. Early news stories talked about Russian SA-11 missile launchers being moved into eastern Ukraine, then being seen moving back to Russia shortly after MH17 was shot down. There does not appear to be any substantial denial of these movements; instead, the early spin aims to claim that the SA-11 units were brought into Ukraine then used by separatist rebels who ‘accidentally’ shot down MH17 while aiming for a Ukrainian military aircraft. It seems hard to imagine that a complex system* would be delivered by anyone other than a trained crew, and even harder to imagine that they would then let others play with the system.*Experts note that the SA-11 has three separate vehicle units: a radar (for target acquisition), a control center, and tank-like launchers with four loaded 18-ft missiles. It seems far more plausible that the SA-11 was used by trained Russian soldiers, under a cover claiming the separatists pulled the trigger. Alternatively, there have been some charges that the Ukrainian military used their own BUK to intentionally shoot down MH17, with the intent of pinning the blame on the Russians. Given known world history, it is difficult to reject this as the possible true story.

In a world of spin-control, one strategy is to launch a diversionary story. Ukraine was shockingly quick to release a collection of alleged intercepted communications, first between rebel leaders and Russian military officials and then amongst rebel leaders. They reflect that the news story broke as a shoot-down of an An-26 military aircraft (as first happened three days earlier, in the first high-altitude shoot-down, on 7/14/14), but soon transitioned to a realization that a civilian aircraft had been hit. Some charge that this is all a fabrication to cover for what may have been an air-to-air missile shoot-down from a Ukrainian jet.

One key area where Ukraine is clearly blocking Public knowledge is their refusal to share ATC data. The airspace is managed by Ukrainian air traffic controllers, under an international agreement. Sadly, that agreement does not mandate each state to be transparent and produce data, even after a major incident such as MH17. Interestingly, Russian radar claims to have tracked portions of MH17, and in a Defense Ministry presentation on 7/21/14, Russian officials offered radar data which they interpret as showing a Ukrainian military Su-25**Ten days earlier, on 7/7/14, an Su-25 was reportedly captured by separatists. So, conceivably, the alleged shadow Su-25 may have been Ukraine, rebel, or even Russian. shadowing 3-5 kilometers from MH17. If this is true, perhaps Ukraine is trying to hide the important fact that they did have a military aircraft in close proximity to the downed airline. That same Russian Defense Ministry presentation had many other strong arguments questioning the veracity of western claims, many of which are laid out near the bottom of the lengthy 7/26/14 report by Andre Vltcheck, at Global Research.

High-Altitude Shoot-downs were New on 7/17/2014

The first high-altitude shoot-down was just three days earlier, on 7/14/14, when an An-26 was hit; eight parachuted out and two died. Then, on 7/16/14, two Ukrainian Air Force Su-25′s were downed, apparently at higher altitudes, producing no fatalities; one was claimed to have been a MANPADS hit, and the other was claimed to have been an air-to-air hit by a Russian fighter. Prior to 7/14/14, there had been numerous shoot-downs, but most were helicopters, and all were at low altitudes, generally during takeoff or approach. In other words, the SA-11 system appears to have been first used on 7/14/14, just three days prior to MH17. Given the higher altitudes, it is quite conceivable that the two Su-25′s on 7/16/14 were also shot down using the SA-11.

Certainly, the major world military powers know the precise date and time that the Russian SA-11′s were delivered into and became operational in eastern Ukraine … but we don’t know that, because the leaders are hiding this information. The spin-games will continue and all parties will ensure the Public is in the dark. This is a pattern we have all come to expect in recent decades … from the U.S., Russian, Ukraine, the agencies (e.g., FAA), the airlines, etc. It is said that power corrupts; here, it appears a key part of the corruption is to control the flow of even basic information. Where is a good Whistleblower when we need one?

We Have to Look Elsewhere for the Facts

An outstanding resource for information on aviation accidents and incidents is AviationSafetyNetwork (A-SN). It includes two databases: one that covers major aviation incidents, and another that allows user-inputs to compile data and news links for even minor GA incidents. The A-SN database was queried by, using a filter to show all recent Ukraine accidents. Nearly all ‘accidents’ are war-related; all shoot-downs are listed in the table below:

5/2/2014 (2) Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopters, shot down near Luvyansk, using MANPADS. 5 fatalities.
5/2/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopter, damaged by gunfire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.
5/5/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopter, shot down by ground-fire near Luvyansk, crew is rescued, then Ukrainian Su-25 fires to destroy the downed helicopter. No fatalities.
5/29/2014 Ukrainian National Guard Mi-8 helicopter, shot down by ground-fire near Slavyansk. 12 fatalities.
6/3/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopter, shot down by small-arms fire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.
6/4/2014 (3) Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters were damaged/destroyed by MANPADS and ground-fire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.
6/5/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Mi-8 helicopter, hit by small-arms fire near Slavyansk, forced to make emergency landing. No fatalities.
6/6/2014 Ukrainian Air Force An-30 jet with 8 on board, hit by ground-fire near Drobyshevo, catches fire and crashes. 5 fatalities.
6/14/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Il-76 jet, hit by MANPAD while on approach to Lugansk airport. 49 fatalities.
6/24/2014 Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopter, hit by MANPAD while taking off near Slavyansk airport. 9 fatalities.
7/1/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jet, on an attack mission and hit by defense forces but able to return to its base. No fatalities.
7/2/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 jet, on an attack mission and hit by defense forces but able to return to its base. No fatalities.
7/12/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Mi-24 helicopter, on an attack mission near Snezhny, shot down by MANPAD. No fatalities.
7/14/2014 Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jet, destroyed by separatists (no other information available). No fatalities.
7/14/2014 Ukrainian Air Force An-26 jet, shot down at higher altitude (6,500m) near Izvaryne. 2 fatalities.
7/16/2014 (2) Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jets, one shot down by MANPAD, the other allegedly shot down by Russian fighter, both at altitude around 20,000-ft, near Ukraine-Russian border. No fatalities.
7/17/2014 Multiple older aircraft damaged/destroyed by Ukraine forces while parked at Tarasovka Airfield, northwest of Crimea. No fatalities.
7/17/2014 MH17 shot down at FL330, flying east of Donetsk. 298 civilian fatalities.