Archive for March 29th, 2014

Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: New hope for clues to MH370’s fate as ships scour more hospitable search area

by Tom Allard, Adrian Beattie
Sydney Morning Herald
March 30, 2014

Aircraft scoured 252,000 square km on Saturday, almost the entire search zone, but the hunt was unsuccessful.

While numerous objects were sighted by surveillance planes and some recovered by vessels on the scene, AMSA reported that none of the debris that was closely scrutinized was from the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft.

A flotilla of ships searched for more objects identified by military aircraft as possible wreckage of MH370 as an ever-expanding multinational effort to locate the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet stepped up a gear.

Late on Saturday, a Chinese surveillance plane reported it found three more objects – white, red and orange – in the new search waters, Chinese state media reported.

As new aircraft, ships and a team of navy divers prepared to join the search, the head of New Zealand’s Defence Force, Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, said the debris first sighted by its P3 Orion aircraft on Friday was between half a metre and one metre in size. Read the rest of this entry »


Flight 370, a mysterious ‘one-off,’ spurs calls to modernize tracking technology

By Joel Achenbach, Scott Higham and Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post
March 29, 2014

The bizarre tale of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 comes at a time when flying is safer than ever. Nervous fliers squeeze the armrests for dear life, but most passengers have no problem nodding off as their jetliner cruises seven miles above the Earth. They have internalized the statistical truth that the most dangerous part of an airplane trip is the drive to the airport.

Yet disasters still happen, including this one. Officially declared a plane crash at sea with no survivors, the event remains so deeply mysterious that it seems premature to refer to the people aboard as deceased.

Viewed in the broad context of aviation safety, this weird case actually fits snugly within a recent pattern: Airline disasters now tend to be unprecedented in nature — what investigators call “one-offs.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Chinese ship steams to possible MH370 debris

29 March 2014

A Chinese ship is steaming towards a search area in the southern Indian Ocean after one of the country’s military aircraft spotted three suspicious objects that could be related to the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

China’s state news agency Xinhua reported that the Chinese military plane Ilyushin IL-76 had sighted three white, red and orange floating objects from an altitude of 300m on Saturday.

The Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA), which is coordinating the search, said late on Friday that five international aircraft had spotted “multiple objects of various colours”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Timeline of Malaysian Air’s Missing Flight 370

By J. Kyle O’Donnell Mar 28, 2014 2:25 PM GMT+0800

The disappearance of Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS)’s Flight 370 has galvanized a multinational search, spawned theories ranging from an accident to air piracy and repeatedly dashed hopes that a resolution was at hand.

Below is a timeline of the events that began with the jet’s departure from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing:

March 8:

12:41 a.m.: Flight 370 takes off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew members on board.

1:07 a.m.: Last transmission from the Boeing Co. 777-200ER via an onboard text-and-data messaging system known by the acronym Acars.

1:19 a.m.: Last communication from the cockpit. Initial investigation says copilot said, “alright, good night” as the last words. Plane leaves Malaysian airspace, heading across the Gulf of Thailand toward Vietnam.

1:21 a.m.: Radar transponder is switched off.

1:37 a.m.: Next Acars transmission is due, and never comes.

2:15 a.m.: Malaysian military radar spots an aircraft on the west side of Peninsular Malaysia that isn’t using its transponder. This development won’t be publicly known until about a week later. The radar target is Flight 370, heading away from its planned route.

6:30 a.m.: Flight 370 is scheduled to arrive in Beijing.

7:39 a.m.: China’s Xinhua news agency sends a flash bulletin saying contact had been lost with Flight 370. Chinese passengers make up about two-thirds of the people on board the plane.

8:11 a.m.: Last satellite signal sent from the plane, known as a “handshake,” is detected. This development won’t be known for about a week.

8:19 a.m.: Evidence of a “partial handshake” between the aircraft and the ground station eight minutes after the last complete communication. This information was released March 25.

9:15 a.m.: No response from the aircraft when the ground station sent the next message, indicating the plane was no longer logged on to the network.

Initial search efforts focus on the Gulf of Thailand, where twin oil slicks stir concern that they signal a crash on the plane’s known route. The discovery that two passengers were traveling on stolen passports triggers speculation that terrorism may have been involved.

March 9: Vietnamese searchers find objects in the Gulf of Thailand only to conclude later that they’re unrelated to Flight 370. Representatives for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing travel to Malaysia to assist with the investigation. Speculation arises that the plane deviated from its route.
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Three events in last 24 hours brought some semi-light and “hope against hope”, however tenuous and unsubstantial, all is not yet lost for the 239 aboard MH 370 as long as no wreckage has been found

Three events in the last 24 hours have brought some semi-light and “hope against hope”, however tenuous and unsubstantial, in the long, bleak and agonizing 21-day ordeal of the aggrieved that all is not yet lost for the 239 passengers and crew aboard Malaysian Airlines aircraft MH 370 Boeing 777-200 as long as no wreckage has been found.

The first is the statement by the satellite company Inmarsat, distancing itself from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s definitive conclusion on the 17th day of the missing MH370 that the Malaysian Airlines flight had ended in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors and the announcement of the end of the search-and-rescue (SAR) operation.

Inmarsat spokesperson Jonathan Sinnatt has been quoted in the international media as saying that Inmarsat had only provided the information and it was for the Malaysian government to draw its own conclusions. Read the rest of this entry »


Here’s How They’ll Piece Together What Happened to Flight MH370

By Jordan Golson

The southern Indian Ocean is a vast, desolate and hostile place churned by relentless currents and vicious storms. It is rarely traversed by air or sea, and anything lost there may never be found. That includes Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

But those scouring a remote swath of ocean west of Australia received tantalizing clues this week, including new radar data about the plane’s velocity. The data, gleaned from radar between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, suggests MH370 was traveling faster than previously believed, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said. That means it would have run out of fuel sooner. The agency called this new information “the most credible lead to where debris may be located.” 1

The new lead prompted a sudden change in focus to an area 685 miles northeast of where everyone had been searching. They’d spent much of the week scouring an area 1,600 miles west of Perth, Australia, after satellite images taken Sunday by Airbus Defence and Space and Monday by Thailand’s Geo-Informatics Space Technology Development Agency revealed what might be a debris field.

The shift to yet another area underscores just how perplexing the search has been, and how investigators have been frustrated in their quest for answers. None of the aircraft or ships in the region have found anything of note, and the photos may reveal nothing more than whitecaps or the flotsam so often found at sea.

With little else to go on, investigators have so far relied upon the scant satellite and radar communication the plane had after going dark 90 minutes into its March 8 flight to Beijing with 239 people aboard. Finding a debris field would be akin to a homicide detective locating a body, allowing investigators to begin piecing together, literally and figuratively, what happened.

“Until they find debris,” said Dr. Vernon Grose, a former investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, “they’re spending all that money on this, and it’s totally useless.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Can flight MH370 lead to political change?

The Malaysian Insider
March 29, 2014

Will Malaysians have the appetite for a political witch hunt after the flight MH370 crisis?

A writer contributing to Al Jazeera website says that right now many are emotionally exhausted with the affair and by the time all the questions have been answered and murkiness cleared, it could be business as usual in Malaysia.

“Once the dust settles on this tragedy, could the lessons learnt act as a catalyst for the political shake up, or even awakening, that Malaysia so urgently needs?

“Will the Malaysian people demand a more answerable government from now on – and more importantly will the ruling elite deliver?” freelance writer Zarina Banu wrote in Al Jazeera this week.

She pointed out the clumsy and conflicting communications over flight MH370, which was carrying 239 people on board when it disappeared en route to Beijing on March 8. No physical wreckage or debris has yet to be found.

But she said Malaysians were split about the way the leadership has managed these catastrophic events – a fissure that mirrors a virtual 50-50 political divide between the government and the opposition. Read the rest of this entry »


Interpol hits back at Malaysia’s stolen passport database claims

The Malaysian Insider/AFP
March 29, 2014

Interpol hit back yesterday at Malaysia’s claims that consulting a stolen passport database would have caused too much delays to be useful, after confusion caused by Kuala Lumpur’s failure to detect two illegal migrants on the still missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

Two passengers on the Malaysian Boeing 777 flight thought to have crashed into the Indian Ocean triggered an international terrorism probe this month after it was revealed they were travelling on stolen passports.

It was later reported that the pair were illegal migrants from Iran seeking a better life in the West and Malaysian authorities were criticised for not using an Interpol database designed to identify stolen passports.

But on Wednesday, Malaysian Minister of Home Affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told parliament in Kuala Lumpur that consulting the database was too time consuming for immigration officers and caused airport delays. Read the rest of this entry »


Flight MH370: Aircraft debris – or a load of rubbish?

By Neil Arun
BBC News
28 March 2014

A white speck on a black background. Zooming in, the spectral outline of something that was perhaps part of an aircraft.

It may be a vital clue in the riddle of flight MH370, fodder for the investigators and closure of a kind for the families of the missing passengers.

Or it may be a wayward shipping container, the remnants of a fishing boat, regurgitated flotsam from the tsunami that struck Indonesia 10 years ago, driftwood, plastic waste – or just a transient fleck of foam on a boisterous sea.

None of these possibilities can be discounted in the satellite images from the southern Indian Ocean where the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet has been focused.

In the absence of finer data, floating debris from the plane remains critical to solving the puzzle of its disappearance. Read the rest of this entry »


Missing Malaysian Flight MH370: Search area shifts after Boeing looks at engine data

Kathy Marks
28 March 2014

The search for wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 moved 1,100km to the north-east yesterday following a fresh analysis of radar and satellite data. Five aircraft combing the new stretch of the Indian Ocean quickly found multiple objects which ships will try to locate on Saturday.

The search zone was re¬calibrated, bringing it considerably closer to the Western Australian coast, after data analysis indicated that the Boeing 777 – which vanished soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur three weeks ago – was flying faster than initially estimated, and therefore would have run out of fuel more quickly.

Items spotted from the air included two rectangular objects that were blue and grey: two of the colours in the aircraft’s livery. Others were white or light-coloured. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa), which is co-ordinating the hunt, said photographs of the objects would be analysed overnight.

For the past week, aircraft and ships have been crisscrossing an area about 2,500km south-west of Perth, pinpointed as the most likely spot where MH370 is presumed to have run out of fuel and crashed, killing all 239 passengers and crew. Read the rest of this entry »


Geopolitical games handicap Malaysia jet hunt

The Malaysian Insider/Reuters
March 29, 2014

The search for flight MH370, the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that vanished over the South China Sea on March 8, has involved more than two dozen countries and 60 aircraft and ships but been bedevilled by regional rivalries.

While Malaysia has been accused of a muddled response and poor communications, China has showcased its growing military clout and reach, while some involved in the operation say other countries have dragged their feet on disclosing details that might give away sensitive defence data.

Several countries in the region, including China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, are engaged in a series of territorial disputes in the South China Seas, with control of shipping lanes, fishing and potential hydrocarbon reserves at stake.

With the United States playing a relatively muted role in the sort of exercise that until recently it would have dominated, experts and officials say there was no real central coordination until the search for the plane was confined to the southern Indian Ocean, when Australia largely took charge. Read the rest of this entry »


More objects spotted after search shifts north

Jane Wardell and Rujun Shen
Mar 28, 2014

MH370 An air and sea search for a missing Malaysian passenger jet moved 1,100km north on Friday, after Australian authorities coordinating the operation in the remote Indian Ocean received new information from Malaysia that suggested the plane ran out of fuel earlier than thought.

The dramatic shift in the search area, moving it further than the distance between London and Berlin, followed analysis of radar and satellite data that showed the missing plane had travelled faster than had been previously calculated, and so would have burned through its fuel load quicker.

Australia said late on Friday that five aircraft had spotted “multiple objects of various colours” in the new search area.

“Photographic imagery of the objects was captured and will be assessed overnight,” the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (Amsa) said in a statement.

“The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships.”

The latest twist underscores the perplexing and frustrating hunt for evidence in the near three-week search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour into a Kuala Lumpur to Beijing flight. Read the rest of this entry »