The fourth week and 23rd day of the longest and largest-ever multinational sea-and-air search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 Boeing 777 which appeared to have vanished into the air on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board and the second day of a new search area 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) west of Perth have all proved to be fruitless with items scooped from the sea by Chinese and Australian ships turned out to be fishing material or rubbish.
The multi-national SAR mission is in a race against time, as the “black boxes” – the flight recorders which pick up cockpit conversations as well as flight data – emit pings for 30 days after becoming immersed in water, i.e. by April 7.
The MH370 “black boxes” may last at least 10 more days and perhaps a few weeks longer, depending on water temperature and other factors.
The “black boxes” are designed to withstand depths of 20,000 feet and may work in even deeper water, the range of the pings is a mile.
Cases where recorders were retrieved from the ocean include TWA Flight 800 in 1996, EgyptAir Flight 990 in 1999, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 in 2000 and Air France 447 in 2009.
However, without a signal from the boxes, it will be a daunting task to find the “black boxes” of MH370 when its debris have still to be found – a much more impossible task than the challenge faced by the search teams for Air France 447, which went down midway across the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. Although debris was found within days of the Air France 447 crash and the flight path was known, it took investigators another two years to retrieve the recorders from the bottom of the sea.
If the “black boxes” cannot be retrieved or the debris of MH370 cannot be established by April 7, i.e. the 30-day deadline for the “black boxes”, then the possibility that it may take longer than the search for Air France 447 for retrieval of the MH370 “black boxes” will have to be faced.
Aviation records show over 12 air crashes where the “black boxes” could not be retrieved.
Are all investigations in the MH370 disaster to be held in abeyance until the retrieval of the “black boxes”, which could be an indeterminate length of time?
It is not in our national interest to put off investigations and delay answers to the thousand-and-one questions which have surfaced in the past three weeks, not just about the “what, how and why” about the events leading to the disappearance of Flight MH370 on March 8, but also a whole series of questions surrounding the disappearance of the Triple Seven, the Search-and-Rescue (SAR) Operation and attendant queries and controversies.
This is why the Malaysian Cabinet should come out, without any further hesitation, with a clear-cut position that it would support the establishment of an opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH370 regardless of whether the “black boxes” of MH370 could be retrieved.
This will go a long way to send a clear and unmistakable message, both nationally and internationally, that the Malaysian authorities have nothing to hide and is prepared to support a full and independent investigation into the MH370 Disaster.
Hishammuddin said yesterday that the Transport Ministry will set up an international committee to probe the disappearance of MH370 and that international aviation and intelligence agencies would be invited to look into the issues over Malaysia’s aviation industry.
Hishammuddin also indicated that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) will be doing an inquiry into the MH370 disaster.
The MH370 is not only a national but an international disaster, and just as the SAR had involved the largest-ever multi-national air-and-sea operation, the various MH370 inquiries must involve the participation of all countries who have special interests and/or stakes in the unprecedented aviation disaster.
A Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH370 Disaster for instance, should be prepared to be the basis for a full-scale and wide-ranging international multi-Parliamentary inquiry – probably the first of its kind – not only because the passengers come from a diversity of countries and the sea-and-air SAR operation had involved 26 nations, but because the MH370 disaster should continue to represent an international search for a better and safer global village for mankind.
I therefore urge all MPs regardless of political party or coalition to be conscious not only of our national but also international responsibilities in the MH370 disaster by reaching a parliamentary consensus that a Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH370 Disaster would be formed, whether the “black boxes” are retrieved or not, and that the Parliamentary Select Committee should start preparations and investigations six weeks after March 8.
(Media Statement in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 30th March 2014)