Mar 122015
 

Upon public release of the MH370 interim report, the Malaysian and Australian governments are steadfastly committed to the search for the missing Boeing 777-200ER ariliner (registered as 9M-MRO), flown as Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised Sunday.

March 8, 2015 marks a year after the massive airliner disappeared from civil and military radar early morning on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China, carrying 227 passengers and 12 Malaysia Airlines crew aboard. Less than 40 minutes after take-off, air traffic controllers lost radar contact with the aircraft.

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated the search would move to a different area, if the current operation was unsuccessful, according to BBC News.

Mr. Abbott said, “I can’t promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever, but we will continue our very best efforts to resolve this mystery and provide some answers.”

“We owe it to the families of the dead, we owe it to the travelling public to do whatever we reasonably can to resolve of this mystery,” Prime Minister Abbott told reporters on Sunday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak added on Sunday the search team had followed the “little evidence that exists” but remained “hopeful” that the plane would be found.

“No words can describe the pain the families of those on board are going through. The lack of answers and definitive proof – such as aircraft wreckage – has made this more difficult to bear,” the Malaysian Prime Minister expressed.

We have no evidence neither exactly where the Boeing 777-200ER airliner is, nor exactly where the “black-boxes” are at the moment. Remarkably, no trace of debris or wreckage of the jumbo aircraft has been found, making MH370 the greatest international aviation safety and security mystery in history.

Malaysian Transport Minister says its government remains committed to solving the missing MH370 mystery. “It remains unclear what the next steps would be. If the search now underway comes up empty, it would be back to the drawing board.”

An interim report issued by The Malaysian International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370, released Sunday, offered no new clues as to the whereabouts of MH370.

As a Contracting State of ICAO and in accordance with Chapter 5, paragraph 5.3 of Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation on Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, Malaysia, as the State of Registry, is responsible for investigating the circumstances of accidents and of serious incidents.

The 584-page interim report into the disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER offers detailed maps and charts on how civil and military radars had tracked the plane going so far off-course.

The sole objective of the interim report investigation of the MH370 accident or incident is the prevention of future accidents or incidents. No definitive cause or apportion of blame or liability for the airliner’s disappearance is discussed inside the interim report, which also suggests “there was “nothing suspicious in the financial, medical or personal histories” of the two pilots inside the Boeing 777-200ER flight deck or the 10 Malaysia Airlines flight crew,” reports Reuters. “There was nothing unusual in the way the pilots showed up for the flight, and that it was similar to their behavior for past flights,” according to CCTV video records.

However, one poignant finding of the interim report was the expiry state of the battery of the flight data recorder’s underwater locator beacon, which remarkably had expired by nearly a year, rending the deep sea locator beacon virtually useless for pinpointing the exact location of the airliner, which is generally believed to have plunged somewhere inside the vast southern Indian Ocean on the morning of March 8, 2014.

Specifically, the interim report says the battery powering MH370’s flight data recorder’s underwater locator beacon, which is designed to cast off a signal once an airliner crashes in the ocean, had expired in December 2012 and was not replaced by aircraft maintenance. “This was because the engineering department’s computer system was not properly updated,” Reuters reports.

The Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370 was formed to conduct the investigation into the disappearance of Flight MH370. The 19-member Investigation Team, headed by a Chief Inspector/Investigator-in-Charge, consists of three Committees, namely Operations, Airworthiness, and Medical/Human Factors, each headed by a Chairman.

Also participating in the Team are Accredited Representatives from seven international Air Accident and Incident Investigation Organizations:

  1. Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) of Australia
  2. Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of United Kingdom
  3. Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of Singapore
  4. Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation civile (BEA) of France
  5. Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC)
  6. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of United States of America
  7. National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) of Indonesia

Approaching more than 40 percent to half of the 60,000 square kilometer (650 kilometer long and 93 kilometer wide, or 23,000-square mile) high-priority search area (1800 kilometers (1,100 miles) off the coast of western Australia at Perth in the southern Indian Ocean) has been scoured to “support a safe and effective deep-water search. This three-dimensional map has been built from a combination of existing data and new higher resolution surveys.”

Not a trace of the Boeing 777-200ER airliner has been located inside the priority search area after more than 40 percent of the area has been scoured. However, investigators and experts believe this priority search area is the plane’s most likely resting place, and the search teams anticipate the completion of this phase of search operations will probably be finished by May 2015. At this point, the international Air Accident and Incident Investigation teams will regroup to refine even perhaps broaden the search area to better determine through the additional research ongoing the whereabouts of the airliner wreckage.

“The disappearance of MH370 is without precedent, and so too is the search – by far the most complex and technically challenging in aviation history,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement.

“Together with our international partners, we have followed the little evidence that exists. Malaysia remains committed to the search, and hopeful that MH370 will be found,” he said.

China’s foreign minister said the search for the aircraft would not stop. He vowed the Chinese government would provide whatever help it can to the relatives and it offered its sympathies on the anniversary Sunday.

Australia’s deputy prime minister said recently the search could not go on forever, and discussions were under way between Australia, China and Malaysia as to whether to call off it off soon, reports Reuters.

Chapter 6, paragraph 6 of ICAO Annex 13 asks that Malaysia provide information on the progress of the investigation on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, registered 9M-MRO. If a final MH370 report cannot be made publicly available within twelve months, Malaysia conducting the investigation shall make an interim statement publicly available on each MH370 anniversary date of March 8, detailing the progress of the investigation and any safety issues raised.

ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organization, is a specialized agency of the United Nations charged with coordinating and regulating international air travel. The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and details the rights of the signatories in relation to air travel. Today, there are 191 Contracting States in ICAO.

State of Tracking of the Boeing 777-200ER Airliner on March 8, 2014

Conventionally, airliners are tracked using radar systems, largely originating in the 1940s at the early age of commercial air travel. Primary radar is the most fundamental up to 240 kilometers off the coastline out into the hand off to oceanic air traffic control.

Beyond this 240 kilometer limit out into oceanic air travel, more advanced secondary radar using transponders takes over airliner tracking of speed and direction back to oceanic air traffic controllers, including Aircraft Communications Addressing & Reporting System (ACARS). Pilots can also communicate to oceanic air traffic controllers using high-frequency radios that can track data and voice transmissions of the performance status of the aircraft. These secondary radar systems, of course, can be switched on and off at will by pilots.

Airliners are also tracked using global positioning systems for intermittent maps of the whereabouts of aircraft, but not real-time position tracking with oceanic air traffic controllers due to airlines having to bear prohibitive costs of maintaining such global real-time positioning technologies.

Finally, there is “the so-called black-box in the cloud,” that is, the technological potential of affordable real-time satellite streaming of “limited data, black-box variables, and information of flight speed, engine performance, altitude, and overall flight location and status from “black-box” flight deck voice recorders and “black-box” flight data recorders.

Typically, oceanic aircraft travel is tracked on thirty minute intervals, however, new global tracking recommendations, forthcoming February 2016 in the wake of MH370, will call for suggested use of oceanic airliner tracking technologies on 10-15 minutes intervals, which is now currently installed on long-range oceanic flights.

The international Air Accident and Incident Investigation teams led by Malaysia with experts from various countries including the United States, Britain, China, France and Australia confirmed in its interim report that MH370 was spotted making a turn-back by Malaysian primary radars operated by both the military and civil aviation authorities, according to Reuters.

Reuters reported further: “Thai radars also spotted MH370, but Bangkok’s air traffic controllers “did not pay much attention” to the flight as it did not fall under Thailand’s jurisdiction.”

“The Indonesian air traffic control radar in Medan, in the northern tip of Sumatra island, did not pick up MH370 “for unknown reasons”.”

“The aircraft’s transponder, which was switched off just before the aircraft made the turn-back, was “operating satisfactorily” until it was lost on the Air Traffic Control screen,” according to the interim report.

The interim report continues upon ICAO’s over safety recommendation of the need for global real-time airliner tracking.

Investigators noted that while commercial planes perform regular long-haul flights over transpacific, transatlantic, and transpolar oceanic regions and across remote areas of the world, there is no international requirement for real-time tracking of such aircraft.

“There have now been two occasions during the last six years, when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known,” the Malaysian report states. “This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner.”

At its February 2-5, 2015 conference in Montreal, Canada, ICAO has now finally addressed the benefits after discussions among airline chiefs and industry experts of introducing a draft standard for real-time tracking of commercial aircraft for airline chiefs to consider for a final recommendation approved and released by February 2016.

Largely the same recommendation that was made after the Air France Flight 447 disaster in 2009, as nothing happened after the final Air France 447 report, the MH370 aviation tragedy on March 8, 2014 has spurred forward movement a year later on an international requirement for real-time tracking of airliners over oceanic and remote regions of the globe.

Photo Credit: Malaysia Airlines, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Families React to MH370 Being Declared An Accident and All Lives Lost

The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) declaration of MH370 as “an accident and all lives lost” under standards of annexes 12 and 13 is important at this stage of the aviation mystery, because when an aircraft departs and does not reach its intended destination, after the search and rescue period commences up to a year, the airline has to announce the aircraft is lost.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was officially declared on Thursday, January 29, 2015, an accident and all lives presumed lost on the southern Indian Ocean floor, authorities say, after history’s largest and costliest oceanic airliner search for nearly eleven months as of Monday, February 9, 2015. Officially, this clears the way for Malaysia Airlines to pay compensation to victims’ relatives, while the search for the massive Boeing 777-200ER airliner continues, reports Reuters.

“We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident … and that all 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement.

“The announcement is in accordance with standards of annexes 12 and 13 of the International Civil Aviation Organization,” said the Malaysian DCA director-general. “It will allow families of the passengers to obtain assistance through compensation,” he said.

Focusing on the “people more than just the devices” now after a year of the missing MH370 mystery, this lost declaration of the Boeing 777-200ER airliner does not give comfort and completion to the MH370 families.

Sarah Bajc, lead advocate for the families, still waits for her partner, Phil Wood, who was unfortunately on board MH370. Bajc says “as far as we can see from what has happened … throughout the situation, there is … corruption at the highest levels, and I am very clear to separate that from the average Malaysian or the average Malaysia Airlines employee. I think that they are victims in this and have done their best.”

“We are asking what has happened, why it has happened, and why Malaysia Airlines,” an average Malaysia Airlines pilot asks recently in Kuala Lumpur on Aljazeera.

Bajc ridiculed the fact that investigators pulling together the interim report on MH370 had interviewed just 120 people.

Specifically, the international team of investigators interviewed persons from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), MAS, next-of-kin of crew, refueler, flight caterer, aircraft cleaners, cargo operators and loaders, freight-forwarders, suppliers and consignees.

The investigative teams also visited cargo operators, freight-forwarders and consignees of lithium ion batteries and mangosteen fruit, local (Subang, Penang and Muar) and overseas (Beijing and Tianjin in China) for data collection and interviews.

In addition, the investigators visited Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre, Subang and Air Traffic Services Office, KLIA, Air Nav Indonesia, Medan (Indonesia), Southern Region Air Traffic Services Company, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), DCA, Bangkok (Thailand), and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (Singapore) for data collection and interviews.

Still, “that’s less than our tiny underfunded private investigation has done,” Bajc said, referring to a private inquiry launched by a group of next-of-kin.

“We don’t accept the announcement from Malaysia on January 19 that said the event was an accident,” said a woman in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, who did not give her name to BBC News.

Raymund Gagarin, whose cousin Anne Daisy was one of the passengers, said he believed the government was hiding information from families.

“It’s just taking a lot of people’s emotion on a big merry-go-round. It’s a bit cruel,” he added.

“I can’t sleep at night, each night I’m only getting about two hours, but I’m certain that my daughter is still alive and I’m going to get her back,” said a Chinese mother in Beijing still grieving for her daughter lost on MH370, who did not give her name to BBC News.

Tan Tuan Kee, the father of missing passenger Tan Chong Ling, told the BBC he believed his son was still alive.

“I’m concerned that our government will stop searching for the aircraft,” he added.

Photo Credits: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, operating as flight MH370 (Registration Number 9M-MRO)

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