PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The preliminary report on the MH17 disaster appears to add weight to claims that the Boeing 777 was hit by shrapnel from a missile when it crashed on July 17 while flying over eastern Ukraine.
The report released by the Dutch Safety Board yesterday said the aircraft blew up in mid-air while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after being hit by "high-energy objects", killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.
The 34-page report also cleared the crew and the aircraft of any competency or technical problems that may have contributed to the crash.
It said the Boeing 777-200 had broken up after being hit or being penetrated by a large number of high energy objects from outside of the aircraft.
"It is likely this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.
"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," it said.
The report said images taken from the crash site showed pieces of wreckage containing multiple holes and indentations, which were also present on the sections of the cockpit.
The report said there was no indication of any technical or operational issues with the aircraft.
It said the team of international experts found that the aircraft's maintenance records showed it was in airworthy condition prior to its departure from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
According to the information from Malaysia Airlines, the crew members were qualified to operate a Boeing 777 in commercial passenger operation and had valid medical certificates, said the report.
"Both captains had over 10,000 flying hours of which more than 7,000 hours were on Boeing 777 aircraft.
"Both first officers had more than 3,000 flying hours, of which a little over 200 hours were on Boeing 777 aircraft," it said.
The report clarified that MH17 was flying in unrestricted airspace above the restricted area mentioned in a notice by the Ukrainian State Air Traffic Service Enterprise (UkSATSE).
It explained that the MAS aircraft was flying at an altitude of FL330 (33,000 feet) in the eastern part of Ukraine and flew at a constant heading, speed and altitude.
A further investigation would be needed before a final report was issued, the board said in a statement on its website.
The final report is expected within a year after the crash.
The Dutch Safety Board is leading the investigation and coordinating the international team of investigators.
Experts from the Britain, Germany, Australia, Malaysia, the United States, Ukraine and Russia are collaborating on the case.