MAS MH370 mystery continues

The Malaysia Airlines MH370 mystery shows no sign of ending soon, given the huge search area.

19th Mar 2014


MH370 – the truth could be much simpler

The Malaysia Airlines MH370 mystery shows no sign of ending soon, given the huge search area.

While there has been much speculation of a hijacking, possibly by one or both pilots, since Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the aircraft’s disappearance was "consistent with deliberate action", the truth may be much simpler.Airbus A330 Captain Bill Palmer told CNN that the widely reported changes in altitude were “consistent with the airplane flying completely unattended with the autopilot off.

”The changes in direction could be initiated by turbulence if the plane was essentially flying itself, Palmer said, pointing to fire, collision, explosive depressurisation as possibilities.This would explain a lot – neither pilot has shown any “red flags” to investigators and the idea that MH370 could have landed undetected sounds more like the stuff of Hollywood than real life.

With the amount of organisation that would involve, it seems incredible that nothing has come to light so far. Whatever the fate of MH370, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt. It seems that the Malaysian passport controls are so lax that it’s seen as a country of choice for those travelling on forged passports. It seems that the biometric scans of index fingers that every passenger has to give are not being cross-checked against much – which begs the question why have them? Interpol says few countries routinely check its list of stolen passports.

The main lessons should, however, be in crisis management by the Malaysian Government. Najib clearly didn’t see this as a vote winner, leaving if to the acting transport minister to deal with – until it became a criminal investigation and he didn’t have to answer any awkward questions from the media.There has been speculation that the Malaysian Government has something to hide, but again the truth is likely to be much simpler.

The country’s military seem to have been asleep at the wheel (it was the early hours of the morning) and didn’t spot a plane veering wildly off its flight plan. In fact, MH370 appears to have flown over Thailand’s restive southern provinces without setting off any alarm bells either.The issue of military involvement in a civil accident investigation has been a major feature of this story from the start. Whether lessons will be learnt here is less clear. But clearly the flow of information was painfully slow, and resources were deployed in the wrong ocean as a result.Given the amount of time that has passed, finding MH370 is clearly going to be far more difficult that AF447. And that took two years.

Asian Aviation at a glance