MH370: Very short preliminary report issued – could have been “laundered”

The Malaysian government has on 1st May released its preliminary report on the disappearance of MH370. The report is remarkably short (just 5 pages), raises more questions than it answers and could be heavily “laundered”. The material released includes:

  1. a Malaysia Air Accident Investigation Bureau report dated April 9th: MH370 Preliminary Report
  2. Cargo manifest: MH370 Cargo Manifest and Airway Bill
  3. audio recordings of the cockpit conversations with air traffic control
  4. a passenger seating plan

but more questions are raised than are answered.

  • It took almost 4 hours after the last voice contact for the alarm to be raised.
  • When search and rescue was called for the military were not brought into the loop.
  • The Military ignored what they apparently did pick up on radar but classified as being “friendly”.
  • The cargo contained over 2 tons (2453 kgs) of “lithium-ion batteries” (p. 5 of the cargo manifest). How was this possible when lithium-ion batteries were only to be carried on cargo planes?:

Boeing on-transport-of-lithium-batteries 042013

On January 1, 2013, changes to ICAO’s rules associated with transporting lithium batteries by air came into effect. These changes, intended to further enhance safe carriage, include required training for shippers; compliance checks prior to loading and stowage of lithium batteries aboard airplanes; and pilot notification of the presence, location, and quantity of most lithium battery shipments aboard the
airplanes. . ….
On February 13, 2013, ICAO issued a fast track amendment to the technical instructions to rescind
permission allowing lithium ion airplane batteries up to 35kg to be shipped on passenger airplanes This amendment will restrict air transport of lithium ion airplane batteries to cargo-only airplanes. Boeing and its suppliers were already in compliance with this standard. The technical instructions which had become effective on January 1, 2013 allowed airline operators the flexibility to transport lithium ion airplane batteries on either passenger or cargo-only airplanes.

Analysts who listened to the recordings for NBC News did not know why they were edited, but discovered at least four clear breaks in the audio that indicated edits.

The report is silent on most things. Were the passengers incapacitated due to the height excursion? Was there a height excursion? There is nothing in the material released to contradict the speculation that this was a deliberate act to prevent some passengers and some cargo from ever reaching Beijing.

Malaysian Insider

1. Why didn’t the DCA or the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre inform the Malaysian military that the MAS passenger jet was missing after it received a query from the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control?

2. Why the four-hour gap before initiating the search and rescue? Was it due to waiting for Malaysia Airlines to confirm that the plane was indeed missing?

3. Why the confusion that it was in Cambodian air space? Was that mystery ever solved?

4. Why did the military radar operator categorise an aircraft, now believed to be flight MH370, as a friendly aircraft as it travelled in a westerly direction that Saturday morning?

5. Did the military radar operator check with DCA or civilian air traffic controllers before designating that mystery aircraft as friendly?

6. Why did the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) deny and then confirm a report that it believed the aircraft did an “air turn back” when Hishammuddin’s statement last night clearly showed the authorities were aware of an aircraft making a turn-back?

…. But the five-page preliminary report issued last night is scant on such details.

Global television news channel CNN reported last night that the equivalent preliminary report on Air France 447 was 128 pages long. “That report, produced by France’s aviation safety agency just one month after the plane went missing in 2009, offered specific details on communication between various air traffic control centres.

“Flight 447 was found more than a year later in the Atlantic Ocean; all 228 people on board had died,” CNN reported.

It also said that a preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau into the Qantas engine explosion in 2010 ran more than 40 pages, including diagrams and charts. 

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