MH370

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by Chua Wei Ling

On March 8 2014, MH370 disappeared off the radar and seemingly from the face of the earth as the incident left everyone in a state of bewilderment. Now, one year on, the search is still being carried out aimlessly, as no one knows exactly where the plane could be. An international investigation too had recently released an investigation report that only deepens the mystery than shed more like as to where the plane might be.

Based off the transcripts of conversations between civilian, military and airline personnel after the disappearance of the plane, it was revealed that a Malaysian air traffic control supervisor had been asleep on duty four hours after MH370 disappearance. The plane’s communication equipment had ceased operating abruptly at 1.20am Malaysian time and at 5.20am, when a Malaysia Airline staff member repeatedly asked an air traffic controller at Kuala Lumpur airport if air traffic control had successfully handed over responsibility for the airliner to Vietnamese air traffic control, they were told that the Malaysian air traffic control supervisor was asleep and would check when he awakes as the traffic controller had only taken post at 3am.

To make matters even more puzzling, air traffic controllers in Ho Chi Minh too, took 20 minutes to start asking why the plane had not entered its airspace when international protocols demand that this should have been done within 2 minutes. In addition to that, transcripts showed that Vietnamese air traffic controllers had not responded to at least one emergency message and had appeared to have trouble understanding what was being asked of them by Malaysian officials, despite international rules requiring all air traffic controllers (as well as pilots) to pass a test in English.

For Malaysia’s side, the emergency services triggered a distress phase 5 hours and 13 minutes after the last communication of the plane, and the first search aircraft took off only at 11.30am Malaysian time – 10 hours after the disappearance of the plane. There was no coordination between the Malaysian military and air traffic controllers as an unidentified aircraft appeared on their radar, and if the military and air traffic controllers had communicated, an interceptor aircraft could have been dispatched to investigate as well as to follow MH370 to establish its route and status on first notice. Investigations too revealed that one of the batteries on the plane’s flight-data recorders had expired in December 2012 and no known records of it being replaced was made.

At one point in time, Malaysian Airlines too insisted that the plane was flying over Cambodia when, according to available data, it was flying thousands of kilometres away on auto-pilot into the vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean. Nonetheless, while questions are still unanswered and even more questions are being raised, the one thing that everyone hopes to ever know is:

Where is MH370 exactly?

(image credit: Reuters)

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