Tag Archives: Least We Forget

MH370 – Control: More Important Than One Airplane and a Handful of People

I will never forget MH370
On March 9, 2014, I along with so many others wrote the following lead-in for the MH370 story: “Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, 777-200ER registered 9M-MRO, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was reported missing today. Air Traffic Control’s last reported coordinates for the aircraft were over the South China Sea at 6ᵒ55’15”N 103ᵒ34’43”E – A search for the aircraft began approximately four hours after it disappeared.”

June 8 2014 marks 3 months since that was written, and what is remarkable is that the aforementioned paragraph, approximately twelve weeks or 90 days old, to date is still the most reliable information the general public has on the missing flight. The incident summary still reads “missing” and the site still reads “unknown.” The information authorities are choosing to share with the public conveys the message that after analysis of all available satellite data, it is assumed “beyond reasonable doubt” that the plane was lost and there were no survivors. “Assumed” because, 3 months on not a shred of evidence has turned up to indicate otherwise. Incredible, but apparently true.

If the analysis of satellite “hand-shakes” initiated by the aircraft on an automated basis to an Inmarsat satellite is correct, MH370 flew South from a point North-West of the Strait of Malacca into the Indian Ocean, and somewhere to the West or North-West of Perth, its fuel ran out and it crashed some 2000 miles out to sea. We know the ensuing and unprecedented international search involved dozens of planes and boats scouring search areas that constantly shifted as new information, hypotheses and analysis came in. In spite of that the search was unsuccessful.

Yes “somehow” a Boeing 777-200 (currently worth around 260MM a piece) with a wing span almost as wide as its 64m length, somehow crashed into the deep Indian Ocean and left behind no evidence. Isn’t that just amazing?

After the strongest lead in the search, the early April acoustic pings detected off the coast of Western Australia, turned out to be a dead end, the search area was redefined to a vast 40,000sq mile arc of the Southern Indian Ocean approximately as large as the land mass of Tasmania.

Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer from the University of NSW, specialising in the waters surrounding Australia, has said the underwater search for MH370 will be incredibly difficult — and he is not optimistic of a successful outcome given where the effort currently stands. “It’s virtually impossible to find that plane if there’s not an extra lead,” Dr Van Sebille said.“If there’s no other lead…then I think we are in a pretty dire situation.”

By contrast, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told a special Four Corners report, “Over the next eight to 12 months, we will find the aircraft; we’ll find its final resting place.”

Meanwhile, in the land down-under, the Abbott government remains “committed to the search” for MH370 and understands the importance of trying to “resolve the mystery for the sake of the families and friends of those who have been lost.”

The opposition has offered bi-partisan support, with Labour Leader Bill Shorten adding that the mission was not being helped by the running commentary on the fate of the flight. “We’ve all been touched by the tragedy and the disappearance of MH370,” he told reporters. “What I think we need to do is have less running commentary and more letting the professionals get on with the job of trying to answer this terrible question.”

What Bill Shorten suggests is colorfully ambivalent and vaguely disturbing. It reminds people like me who have been following the MH370 story since day 1 why, 3 months down the track, so many questions remain unanswered.

The real reason to have “less of a running commentary” on MH370 is to preserve the system, of which Bill Shorten definitely subscribes to.

It has little to do with hindering what is certainly a criminal investigation. The architects of the crime are surely dead and will never be brought to justice. Any partners in said crime not aboard MH370 would have played aiding and abetting type of roles, and whether any case against them would be affected by answering questions and making information public is doubtful.

With-holding information has nothing to do with Malaysian law. There exist international agreements that automatically over-ride local laws, especially in the case of an international aviation incident.

Granted, revealing security arrangements or military secrets are another matter: All military is paranoid. Everything from satellite orbits, to image capture format to telemetry information is when discussing military space hardware classified. Same thing with military radar – no, not the concepts which are readily available in any modern radar textbook, I’m talking about the implementation specifics, deployment specifics and operating characteristics. For better or for worse, all that information is classified. Whether that status is justifiable is a debatable point, and one that won’t be resolved because of the disappearance of MH370.

That said, this paranoia behind “classified information” is the same paranoia that motivates all champions of the system to remain tight-lipped, and to encourage their constituency to do the same. Do your job, live your life and don’t ask questions. The system is in control. In the case of MH370, the 239 souls aboard and related family, clearly the system failed them. The secrecy surrounding the incident has everything to do with members of various establishments protecting their interests and maintaining the status quo. Regardless of the degree of incompetence and negligence on the part of Malaysia or the airline, withholding evidence sends a clear message: “We are in charge. You are underlings.” It is a provocation; go away and bury your head in the sand.

From a distance, gazing upon the lofty perspective of the system, it is plain to see that the issue of maintaining the appearance of control is of far greater importance than the loss of one airplane and a handful of people.

Three months on, it is abundantly clear now that a person or persons deliberately flew MH370 somewhere it was not supposed to go. As each day passes, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the authorities of the system to pretend they don’t know exactly who those persons were.

…maintain the rage….

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