Malaysia Airlines (MAS) said tonight that it was told to fly low over Ukrainian airspace by ground controllers, putting it at 33,000 feet, just skimming 1,000 feet above restricted altitude.
In a statement here, MAS explained that MH17 had initially filed a flight plan requesting to fly at 35,000 feet above Ukrainian territory, which it described as close to the “optimum altitude”.
“However, an aircraft’s altitude in flight is determined by air traffic control on the ground.
“Upon entering Ukrainian airspace, MH17 was instructed by Ukrainian air traffic control to fly at 33,000 feet,” the national carrier said.
The decision by MH17’s pilots to skim closely to the prohibited air zone — which is 32,000 feet, according to Europe’s aviation authority Eurocontrol — has prompted numerous questions whether this may have contributed to what is believed to be a case of mistaken identity.