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The pilots of a Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in Ukraine on Thursday would have had no radar confirmation if a ground-to-air missile was about to hit the jet, aviation experts say. An adviser to the Ukrainian interior ministry said Flight 17 had been shot down over a town in the east of the country, according to The Associated Press. Those reports are unconfirmed by NBC News.
Planes have transponders that provide the positions of other aircraft in the vicinity — but their radar wouldn’t indicate whether an incoming missile was headed for the plane, said Greg Feith, a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board and an NBC News analyst.
Investigators, however, may be able to determine whether there was any other warning before a potential missile strike or if pilots had time to radio air traffic control, Feith said. “If this was a shoot-down with a missile, depending on how much destruction that missile caused, that would dictate whether the crew would be able to get a radio call out,” he said. Feith added that confirmation of a missile strike would “change the complexion of the type of investigation that’s conducted — whether it’s a pure accident or it’s an intentional act.”