Seven errors in the search for flight MH370
Malaysian military radar noticed blips of a plane believed to be flight MH370, but they were not noticed in real time
Radar data offered evidence that the flight did a turn-back and headed west after its last contact with air traffic controllers, and that contact was lost over the Strait of Malacca. Radar operators however did not see it in real time.
According to CNN, while the radar data was the key reason for expanding the search west of Malaysia, it took officials until March 11 – three days after the disappearance – to explain why they were looking so far off the plane’s expected course. All the while, search efforts continued in places where data showed it could not have been – the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea.
Early briefings seemed chaotic, leaving questions as to who was in charge
“Well, I think they didn’t have a proper plan in place for such an accident like this,” aviation analyst Alastair Rosenschein told CNN’s Isa Soares. “They were speaking off the hymn sheet, if you like, and they were making things up as they went along. And they said things, and then they withdrew them without actually saying they withdrew them.”
An official’s inaccurate description of the two men travelling on stolen passports as resembling a black Italian football player
Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of Civil Aviation, told reporters at a press conference just days after the flight went missing that the two men with stolen passports on board the plane looked like the black Italian footballer Mario Balotelli.
“Do you know of a footballer by the name of Batolli? He’s an Italian. Do you know how he looks like? Battoli, Battoli, Balloteli, Balloteli.”
The men, of course, turned out to be Iranian asylum seekers, according to investigators. The two were not believed to be terror suspects.
From “none of those on board survived” to “hoping against hope”
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on March 24 said the plane’s flight had “ended” in the southern Indian Ocean, just hours after Malaysia Airlines sent a text messages to some relatives, telling them that “beyond any reasonable doubt… none of those on board survived.”
But on Saturday – after family members had angrily said that the conclusion was premature and lacking hard evidence – acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters that he had not entirely given up hope of finding survivors.
“Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course, we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors,” he said at a press conference.
CNN also observed that the following Monday, Hishammuddin further seemed to go back on the account offered by Malaysia Airlines, noting Najib’s carefully worded statement that did not mention a crash or a lack of survivors.
China Daily also reported that Inmarsat, the British satellite firm which provided the data on the possible whereabouts of the plane, said it was not responsible for Putrajaya’s conclusion that flight MH370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, contrary to what Najib said – that the ending of flight MH370 was based on an analysis by Inmarsat.
Glaring errors as to the last words from the cockpit
First, Malaysian authorities on March 17 confirmed that the final words from the cockpit were “all right, good night”.
CNN then said that the innocuous bit of radio banter became yet another headache for investigators when, after days of prodding from reporters and family members, they released a transcript showing the final words were actually, “Good night Malaysian three seven zero”.
The news portal added that it’s not that the new language was suspect, but that Malaysian officials got the original wording wrong, let it stand for nearly two weeks, and then – after saying they wouldn’t release the transcript because of its role in the investigation – suddenly reversed course.
“Now it’s just one thing, one day it’s the next. It’s truly kind of an amazing roller coaster ride,” said CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo. “That would be bad enough just for a civil aviation investigation and a criminal investigation, according to Malaysia. But there are 239 families involved. So high criticism is in order at this point.”
She says the shifts call the investigation’s credibility into question.
More confusion over who spoke those words
At first, officials believed that it was co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid who was speaking to controllers. But on Monday, they seemed to waver on that claim.
CNN however reported that Hishammuddin had said: “Malaysia Airlines had stated initial investigations indicated that the voice which signed off was that of the co-pilot. The police are working to confirm this belief, and forensic examination of the actual recording is ongoing.”
Delay in switching search zones
CNN observed that on Friday, the search area in the Indian Ocean suddenly shifted more than 600 miles northeast after authorities announced further refinement of radar and satellite data had showed the plane couldn’t have flown as far south as previously thought.
The Wall Street Journal, however, reported Monday night that “lapses in coordination among countries and companies” led to a three-day delay in making that move.
According to Andy Pasztor, one of the reporters who wrote the story, this boiled down to poor coordination between two parts of the investigation: One dealt with satellite data, and the other with fuel consumption and aircraft performance.
“And so what we’re left with is sort of a three-day gap where it’s clear that folks were definitely looking in the wrong place,” he said. – April 2, 2014.