Five days after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared on CNN that a preliminary report on the disappearance of MH370 had been submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an aviation expert has asked why is Malaysia hiding the report and not releasing it to the public.
While the world continued to wait for any evidence of the Malaysia Airlines flight, Malaysia had taken the “surprising” step of submitting a report to the United Nations agency, Clive Irving said yesterday in The Daily Beast.
“It’s not customary for air accident investigation reports to go to the ICAO. It’s the responsibility of each nation’s accident investigation agency to release the reports directly to the public as (it sees) fit, according to long-established protocols that demonstrate the independence of the investigators from both political and industry influence,” Irving said on the news portal.
More than 50 days have passed since MH370 went missing on March 8 and an Australian-led search in the Indian Ocean, where the Boeing 777-200ER was presumed to have crashed, has yielded nothing.
Reuters yesterday reported that the chance of finding floating debris from MH370 has become highly unlikely, and a new phase of the search would focus on a far larger area of the Indian Ocean floor.
Irving said the greatest mystery in aviation history had eluded explanation despite the multination hunt in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean and this raised two questions.
Were enough resources being devoted to the underwater search?
Was it realistic to continue with the search when the southern hemisphere’s winter has started and conditions would only worsen?
The only “reasonable way” to answer both questions, Irving said, was to compare it with the search for Air France flight 447 which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.
What was striking about the search for flight 447 was that it “was never a continuous and open-ended effort”, he said.
“It was carried out over a period of a little more than two years in four discrete, limited-time operations.”
Its black boxes, debris and bodies were found two years later on the fourth operation.
“It is clear that the search for the remains of the Air France Airbus A330 was carefully planned, systematic and well resourced, each operation timed for the season when the south Atlantic was at its least challenging in terms of weather,” Irving said.
In the case of flight MH370, there has been no early discovery of wreckage.
But, he said, “The Atlantic search demonstrated that there is no point in using the most effective deep-diving equipment until the area can be narrowed to a searchable size. Then, and only then, can the technology work – first the location of debris and then its recovery”.
The case of Air France 447 serves as an international benchmark for the integrity of crash investigations, said Irving, because of its transparency and commitment to go public with whatever investigators found.
The final report released in July 2012 was described as “descriptive, prescriptive, and exemplary in its clarity”.
Irving said the Malaysians should have followed the French step and released the report themselves instead of sending it to the ICAO in Montreal.
Irving said that all parties involved in assisting the Malaysian government have remained “very tight-lipped about what is going on”.
The Americans – Boeing and National Transport Safety Bureau staff – in Kuala Lumpur only released a statement saying they “have been an active and engaged party to the investigation”.
The British, represented by the Air Accidents Investigation Board (AAIB), too, did not disclose anything, said Irving.
Pointing to basic flaws, such as the failure to establish the timeline of flight MH730 from when it took off to when it was last spotted on radar, Irving said Malaysia’s handling of the missing plane has failed to inspire confidence.
All it had succeeded in doing was to “fuel speculation for bizarre theories than to bring dependable detailing to the narrative”.
Najib told CNN’s Richard Quest that the report submitted to ICAO might be released this week but the move would unlikely appease families of the 239 passengers on board MH370.
Reuters in a report yesterday quoted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as saying given the amount of time that has elapsed, efforts would now shift away from the visual searches conducted by planes and ships and towards underwater equipment capable of scouring the ocean floor with sophisticated sensors.
He admitted, however, that it was possible nothing would ever be found of the jetliner.
“We will do everything we humanly can, everything we reasonably can, to solve this mystery,” he said in Canberra. – April 29, 2014.