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February 14, 2016

Former NTSB Chairwoman Explains Challenges in Investigation of Ukraine Shootdown

On CNBC Friday, Deborah Hersman, the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board, explained some of the difficulties facing investigators as they try to figure out exactly how the Malaysia Airlines flight was downed over Ukraine.

“This a very wide debris field, potentially nine miles long,” she said. “And they’ve got to be able to track every single piece of that aircraft so they can put it together, because the important pats are going to be the ones that tell them what happened.”

She said the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder are needed to corroborate other evidence and form an accurate picture of what happened.

“The cockpit voice recorder can tell you a lot,” she said. “In TWA 800 back in 1996, the sounds of the cockpit…that were recorded actually helped investigators pinpoint the center fuel tank explosion. So you don’t want to discount the information you can get from those devices.”

She said member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization agree to a process in which the nation in which the event occurred – Ukraine — leads the investigation, but other countries have the right to participate: Malaysia, the country which operated the plane, and the United States, the country in which the plane, a Boeing 777, was made.

Hersman served on the NTSB from 2004 until early this year and is now president of the National Safety Council.

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