The Malay Mail Online
April 1, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — Commercial satellite firm Inmarsat has dismissed allegations of “evasiveness” in its absence from technical briefings on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, saying existing rules precluded its active participation in place of British authorities.
The firm whose satellite provided the crucial information of the plane’s calculated position came in for accusations of furtiveness after a “Malaysian official” was reported as saying that it had declined an invitation to join a “high-level” briefing organised by the Malaysian government for families of Chinese passengers from MH370 in Beijing.
Speaking to UK newspaper The Guardian, Inmarsat vice-president for external affairs Chris McLaughlin denied they had turned down the invitation, saying that it was not the private firm’s place to be invited to begin with.
“We haven’t been invited. Why would we? The Air Accident Investigation Branch are the proper people to speak. Inmarsat is a technical adviser to the AAIB.
“That is not us being evasive, that is the Chicago convention protocol,” McLaughlin told the UK daily.
The Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation regulates rules regarding aviation and establishes how air accident investigations are conducted.
Up until the mystery of MH370 that disappeared on March 8, the authority of the responsible country had been the sole spokesman of investigations into air accidents but the rules have seemingly gone out the window in the absence of facts in the current case.
Private firms had before this avoided public comments on ongoing investigations for fear of reprisals from powerful aviation authorities such as the US’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as well as the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
But it was Inmarsat’s decision to give out multiple press interviews the same day Malaysia announced that the firm’s calculations have placed MH370 “somewhere in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean” that had led to the view that it would be a bigger presence in the investigations.
McLaughlin said, however, that Inmarsat would not be allowed to speak even if it were invited to the briefing as it would need to do so through the AAIB.
In the Gallery
A Chinese relative (2nd right) of passengers on board the missing MAS flight MH370 leaves his hotel in Bangi, outside Kuala Lumpur, April 1, 2014. — Reuters pic
AAIB also said it will not speak in place of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation.
On Sunday, acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein expressed frustration by the refusal of plane maker Boeing and engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce to join technical briefings on the missing plane, leaving only MAS to field the queries.
“But just putting MAS on the witness stand, we also need to bear in mind what is the role and responsibility of Rolls Royce, of Boeing, of all these experts, agencies, where is their voice?” Hishammuddin said during an interview with China-owned news station CCTV.
The minister said the firms were paid millions of dollars for their products and services, and must “step up” to help explain the technical aspects of the mystery.
The March 24 announcement based on Inmarsat’s analyses led to angry recrimination from the families of those on MH370, especially after MAS sent text messages to inform them that all passengers were assumed to be dead.
On the weekend, a group of Chinese families made their way to Malaysia to demand the truth and staged a protest outside the Holiday Villa Hotel in Subang Jaya, calling the Malaysian authorities murderers.
In his press statement yesterday, Hishammuddin announced that a “high-level” briefing will soon be held for the families to update them on the latest developments on the search for MH370.
The minister also stressed the complexity of the research done so far to locate MH370, noting that it has involved a massive team of highly-specialised experts, many of whom are based in countries across the world.