MALAYSIA AIRLINES MH17 CRASH: SIA FLIGHT WAS “MINUTES” AWAY WHEN PLANE WAS SHOT DOWN
A Singapore Airlines plane was just minutes away when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was blasted out of the sky, Singapore's government confirmed today.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told parliament that SIA flight SQ351, was only 90km from the doomed plane – a distance covered in mere minutes by passenger jets.
All 298 people on board flight MH17 were killed when the jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine in rebel-held territory on July 17.
Mr Lui said: "At the time of the downing of MH17, flight SQ351 from Copenhagen was estimated to be approximately 90km away.
"As there were no restrictions for flights above 32,000 feet or any information suggesting threats to aircraft at those heights, SIA, like many other airlines flying between Europe and Asia, had continued to use that airspace.
"As soon as SIA received news of the incident, they immediately re-routed all their flights to avoid Ukrainian airspace entirely."
Within hours of the disaster, air traffic tracking site Flightradar 24 posted images on its Twitter feed showing the doomed aircraft's last position.
It placed the Malaysian Airlines plane between SQ351 and Air India Flight AI113, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner en route from New Delhi to Birmingham.
The Singapore transport minister also defended SIA for sticking with the flight path which had seen many Ukrainian military aircraft shot down in the area held by rebels just weeks before the MH17 tragedy.
He said: "It goes to show that 20/20 hindsight is most prescient in those who operate from the sidelines," Lui said, when an independent lawmaker suggested SIA had ignored "tell-tale signs" about the danger facing civilian aircraft in the region.
Lui said that since the tragedy the airline, majority-owned by state investment arm Temasek Holdings, has been instructed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to review the safety of flight routes over conflict zones.