The Malaysian Insider
April 01, 2014
Aviation industry experts now want Malaysia’s air traffic controllers to reveal their response when flight MH370 vanished early March 8, after the authorities finally said last night that the plane’s pilots said “Good night Malaysian three seven zero” and not “All right, good night”.
The change in the conversation transcript is the latest in a series of changes in information about the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) which disappeared with 239 people while en route to Beijing 24 days ago.
“Subang air traffic control (ATC) has not said what it did when the plane vanished after it signed off from Malaysian airspace. Did they launch an immediate search and rescue?
“If the lack of military response is anything, it raises a lot of questions about the ATC’s standard operating procedure (SOP),” an aviation expert told The Malaysian Insider, citing International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations require immediate alerts to relevant search and rescue units.
Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said on March 26 the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) did detect an unidentified aircraft that had turned back but assumed it had done so after being instructed by air traffic control.
“We detected the ‘turn back’ but did not regard it as hostile and as it was a friendly aircraft, we thought maybe that it had received instructions from the control tower but what we later realised was that the aircraft had disappeared (off the radar) at the Andaman Sea or northern Malacca Strait.
“For your knowledge, the visibility of our radar is only around 250 nautical miles,” he said in his winding-up speech to debate the royal address in Parliament.
Rahim rescinded his statement a day later, saying it was his assumption and it was “not accurate”.
But pilots speaking to The Malaysian Insider said Rahim’s knowledge of aviation terminology suggested that he could have been briefed about the Department of Civil Aviation’s (DCA) silence over flight MH370.
“Air turn backs happen regularly and the deputy minister’s presumption means that the ATC or DCA did not inform the military that a plane was lost.
“The onus is on the DCA to clear the air and reveal what it did,” said a pilot who declined to be named.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that American officials and others said Boeing was upset that it took about three hours – much longer than would be typical – for Malaysian authorities to inform company representatives the jet hadn’t been heard from.
Boeing’s team remains “quite frustrated and doesn’t trust the process”, according to one person familiar with the company’s views.
In its first statement on the missing flight on March 8, Malaysia Airlines said that it “confirms that flight MH370 has lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control at 2.40am, today (March 8, 2014)”.
“Flight MH370, operated on the B777-200 aircraft, departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on March 8, 2014. MH370 was expected to land in Beijing at 6.30am the same day. The flight was carrying a total number of 227 passengers (including two infants), 12 crew members.
“Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft,” it said in a statement issued at 7.43am on March 8.
The flag carrier later corrected its statement to say that the last contact was at 1.19am that day, and not 2.40am Malaysian time.
Last night, the DCA said that “We would like to confirm that the last conversation in the transcript between the air traffic controller and the cockpit is at 0119 (Malaysian time) and is ‘Good night Malaysian three seven zero’.
“The authorities are still doing forensic investigation to determine whether those last words from the cockpit were by the pilot or the co-pilot.
“The minister has instructed the investigating team to release the full transcript which will be made available during the briefing to the next of kin,” it said.
On March 12, Malaysian government officials revealed that “All right, good night” were the last words heard from the missing flight MH370 – when they briefed Chinese relatives of passengers in Beijing.
The Daily Telegraph revealed the transcript on March 22, reporting that the final words spoken “All right, good night” came from Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, the co-pilot.
The Malaysian Insider reported on Friday that aviation industry officials were still not clear what the Subang ATC did when it found out the passenger jet had gone missing.
“It is not clear what the ATC did. We know MAS knew the plane was missing but did the military know?
“In fact, did other ATCs in the region know that MH370 was missing? They could have tracked it if they received early information,” an aviation industry official told The Malaysian Insider.
It is understood that Malaysian investigators have found it difficult to get radar data from the country’s neighbours as regional military officials are reluctant to reveal their capabilities.
Australian news site news.com.au quoted a Straits Times report last week that Malaysian authorities had infuriated passengers’ loved ones by telling them at a briefing this week that there was “sealed evidence that cannot be made public” in relation to the missing flight.
“The sealed evidence included air traffic control radio transcript, radar data and airport security recordings,” the paper reported.
The remarks by Malaysian authorities – made at the Metropark Lido Hotel in Beijing – have not been reported by other major newspapers, despite being widely shared on social media, news.com.au said.
DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang has asked for a probe into the mystery, noting there were many questions surrounding the plane’s disappearance which had nothing to do with the black box.
Putrajaya has said it will hold an inquiry after the black box is found. – April 1, 2014.