‘MH370 search costly’

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KUALA LUMPUR: The search for Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 is racking up a huge bill because aviation authorities did not follow protocols, says an expert, adding that the official version of the MAS passenger jet did not add up.

Des Ross, writing in www.aviationbusiness.com.au, said, “If proper protocols had been followed, we would not be looking for the aircraft today.”

The plane with 239 people on board disappeared early on March 8 and has yet to be found.

Discounting the Doppler effect, satellite “pings” and other “high-tech stuff”, the Australian aviation expert said the official version of the final moments of MH370 did not add up.

Ross said the four-hour period after the aircraft disappeared was crucial as it was when confusion and misinformation arose, particularly after MAS said it had told air traffic control there had been contact with MH370 in Cambodian airspace.

“The flight had never entered Cambodian airspace,” Ross said, adding that air traffic controllers should not have accepted the information, especially if they had not cleared the plane to deviate from its flight path.

Ross also hit out at the length of time the Vietnamese controller took to contact his Malaysian counterpart when MH370 did not transfer to his radio frequency. A gap of 17 minutes was too long as the transfer should have occurred “within two to three minutes”, he said.

The controller from Kuala Lumpur should also have contacted Ho Chi Minh control when the MH370 data block first disappeared from the screen, he said.

Ross also rubbished a report from Malaysian authorities aired in a BBC documentary entitled “Where is flight MH370?” that they were unable to reveal the military’s tracking of the aircraft because of security reasons.

Malaysian authorities said they had tracked the aircraft across the peninsula to the Malacca Strait and then the Andaman Sea, information that was withheld during the initial four hours.

Ross was also scathing over the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s failure to investigate the then-unidentified aircraft and contact civil aviation officials on grounds that it was a civilian aircraft, calling the excuse “utter rubbish”. Malaysia’s military radar system is supposed to monitor all flights in its area of responsibility, he said, a job that any professional pilot and military person should uphold.

Ross zeroed in on the lack of communication between military and civil officers, saying that the Royal Malaysian Air Force should have contacted the civil air traffic controller to discuss the unidentified radar target. Such an act, standardised under international protocols, would have solved the issue then and there, he said.

In addition, both military and civil personnel should have tried establishing radio contact with the aircraft, failing which, the Royal Malaysian Air Force should have sent out an interceptor aircraft to ascertain the plane’s identity as well as its course of heading.

Ross also censured Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who had put forth on BBC the consideration of “shooting the intruder out of the sky”, saying that “it was purely a matter of identification”.

Recordings such as the pilot/air traffic controller recording and the conversation between the air traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City should be made public, Ross said, noting that these recordings had yet to be revealed despite the aid it would have offered to investigators searching for the missing plane.

Such recordings must exist as the ground-based communications technology was very sophisticated and operated via a virtually unbreakable system known as “voice switch”, he said.

“Nobody can tell us that the recordings do not exist,” he said.

Flight MH370 dropped off radar en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The Boeing 777 aircraft was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations.

Search officials last week projected that potential wreckage from the aircraft would most likely be washed up on the coast of Indonesia. However, Indonesian Transport Ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Ruhaizah Mohamed Rashid was quick to deny reports that debris found in the country’s waters was that of MH370.  — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 28, 2014.