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Britain to analyze Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 black box

Dutch authorities have asked Britain for assistance retrieving data from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's black box.

By JC Finley
Britain to analyze Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 black box
British Prime Minister David Cameron on March 13, 2014. (UPI/Debbie Hill) | License Photo

LONDON, July 22 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Tuesday that the United Kingdom will assist the international investigation into downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by reviewing the plane's black box.

Russian-backed rebels who controlled the crash site in eastern Ukraine turned over the Flight Data Recorder and Voice Data Recorder to Malaysian authorities in a ceremony at the rebel headquarters in Donetsk on Monday.

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The Malaysian authorities then transferred the black box to Dutch officials.

On Tuesday, the British prime minister wrote on Twitter "We've agreed [to a] Dutch request for air accident investigators at Farnborough to retrieve data from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 black boxes for international analysis."

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Farnborough Airport houses the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, a branch of the British Department of Transport.

How useful will the black box be to investigators?

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UPI spoke with a pilot with 20 years experience, who asked not to be identified for privacy reasons, about what exploitation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's black box could yield.

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It is possible, he said, that "the Flight Data Recorder may record some of the flight parameter that might give a clue as to how it came apart."

But as for the Voice Data Recorder, "it is unlikely [the pilots] were aware that a missile had locked on them ..."

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Flight 17 was struck by a surface-to-air missiles. A radar-guided missile, versus a heat-seeking missile, "is aiming for the mass body of the plane, not an engine." Such a strike would have resulted in "fast decompression," rendering probably everyone unconscious.

"Typically the missile is attacking from below [and] behind, which is a blind spot for the pilots. Civilian aircraft except Israeli El-Al have no missile detection or avoidance equipment."

Ultimately, the pilot concluded, "The black boxes won't tell much."

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