The Malay Mail Online
April 1, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — Searchers wasted three days looking for MH370 wreckage in the wrong part of the Indian Ocean because of poor coordinating among countries working on locating the missing aircraft, the Wall Street Journal wrote today.
Citing opinions from those familiar with the probe, the business paper said the international team of experts involved in investigations have all been performing their roles but are working separately from one another, each in their own area of expertise.
One person, according to WSJ, said that although investigators have been dutifully sharing information with their international partners in the Malaysian-led probe, “Malaysian officials didn’t feel it was their role to ensure that foreign experts were sharing refined data among themselves”.
“They don’t have the necessary structure for inter-agency coordination. It has exposed their lack of preparation to deal with such a disaster,” the paper quoted James Keith, former US ambassador to Malaysia, as saying previously.
Last Friday, the search for MH370 abruptly shifted to an area 1,100 kilometres northeast of where search planes and ships were initially looking for the missing jetliner’s wreckage in the Indian Ocean, far southwest of Perth, Australia.
The move, according to Australian officials, was determined based on a “new, credible lead” that emerged from the investigative team in Malaysia.
“The new information is based on continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca before radar contact was lost.
“It indicated that the aircraft was travelling faster than previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance the aircraft travelled south into the Indian Ocean,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said then.
WSJ noted that the move came only after the authorities merged “two investigative strands” by the teams that were working separately to locate MH370 and exactly which part of the vast Indian Ocean search teams should be despatched.
The paper noted that one team was looking at calculations on the aircraft’s probable speed and fuel consumption, studying data gleaned from radar screens and aircraft-performance modelling.
A separate team was looking at satellite data to calculate the plane’s probable movements.
“The failure to promptly coordinate the analyses raises questions about the flow of information among the many participants in the multinational probe, particularly in the process of identifying the initial search area in the Indian Ocean,” WSJ wrote.
Malaysia first started directing teams to look for MH370 in the South China Sea and the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam in the early days after the jetliner went missing on March 8.
The Beijing-bound aircraft had been heading to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur but lost contact with the Subang Air Traffic Control less than an hour after take-off at 12.41am. At the time, the wide-body jet carrying 239 people was hovering 120 nautical miles off the coast of Kota Baru.
When Malaysian military radar picked up possible signals from an unidentified aircraft hovering over the Straits of Malacca, searchers were told to look there. But this raised eyebrows at the time as the new lead suggested that MH370 had diverted off-course to the west of its original flight path.
It was only on March 15 — a week after MH370’s disappearance — that the Malaysian authorities called off the search at the South China Sea, after expert readings from satellite and military radar data showed that MH370 had indeed veered off course in a westerly direction and could have ended in either one of two arcs – a northern one stretching up to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan or a southern one that ends in the Indian Ocean.
On March 25, 10 days after a 26-nation hunt saw search planes scouring the two identified arcs, the authorities called off the search in the north.
The decision was based on further analysis by UK’s commercial satellite firm Inmarsat and Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which concluded that MH370 flew towards the Indian Ocean after it deviated from its flight path to Beijing.