THIS MIGHT BE THE END OF MH370 MYSTERY: THE MISSING MALAYSIAN AIRLINES PLANE WAS SHOT DOWN DURING JOINT THAI-US MILITARY EXERCISE
by Syarif Hidayat
The missing Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370 was shot down during a joint Thai-US military training exercise and then was the subject of an elaborate international cover-up – according to a book released about the lost plane that has caused anger among relatives of those on board.
Tomorrow (May 20, 2014), just 71 days after the Boeing 777 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Flight MH370: The Mystery will go on sale in Australia, the Sun-Herald reported. It has been written by the Anglo-American journalist and author Nigel Cawthorne.
Cawthorne introduces his book by claiming that the families of MH370’s passengers will “almost certainly” never be sure what happened to their loved ones. But he goes on to support one theory, based on the eye-witness testimony of New Zealand oil rig worker Mike McKay, that the plane was shot down shortly after it stopped communicating with air traffic controllers.
At the time there was a series of war games taking place in the South China Sea, involving Thailand, the US and personnel from China, Japan, Indonesia and others, and Cawthorne has linked this to Mr McKay’s claims to have seen a burning plane going down in the Gulf of Thailand.
“The drill was to involve mock warfare on land, in water and in the air, and would include live-fire exercises,’’ Cawthorne said. “Say a participant accidentally shot down Flight MH370. Such things do happen.
No one wants another Lockerbie [Pan Am flight 103 by terrorists in 1988 allegedly in retaliation for a US Navy strike on an Iranian commercial jet six months earlier], so those involved would have every reason to keep quiet about it.”
Boeing and the CIA should be quizzed
In a related incident, former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad demanded that both Boeing and the CIA should be quizzed over the missing Flight MH370 as planes with powerful communication systems “don’t just disappear”.
“Someone is hiding something. It is not fair that Malaysian Airlines (MAS) and Malaysia should take the blame,” he said in his blog Chedet.Cc.
In his blog, Mahathir expressed his viewpoints and theories on the missing plane that vanished mysteriously on March 8 with 239 people on board and stressed that something was out of place and that the media would not post anything about Boeing or the Central Intelligence Agency.
“What goes up must come down. Airplanes can go up and stay up for long periods of time. But even they must come down eventually. They can land safely or they may crash. But airplanes don’t just disappear,” he said.
“Certainly not these days with all the powerful communication systems which operate almost indefinitely and possess huge storage capacities,” the 88-year-old leader said.
Last week, Prime Minister Najib Razak had admitted that Malaysia “did not get everything right” in the first few days of MH370′s disappearance and called for implementing real-time tracking of airliners.
Malaysia believes the Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board and that satellite data indicates it crashed in the Indian Ocean, west of the Australian city of Perth.
Stating that he believes the tracking system on the plane was intentionally disabled, Mahathir, who was Malaysian prime minister from 1981 to 2003, questioned on where was the data of the plane, which was supposed to have been recorded by the satellite.
“MH370 is a Boeing 777 aircraft. It was built and equipped by Boeing, hence all the communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment must have been installed by Boeing.
“If they failed or have been disabled, Boeing must know how it can be done and surely Boeing would ensure that they cannot be easily disabled as they are vital to the safety and operation of the plane,” he said.
He claimed that in 2006, Boeing received a US patent for a system that, once activated, removes all control from pilots to automatically return a commercial airliner to a pre- determined landing location.
Mahathir cited a Flightglobal.Com article in 2006, stating that the ‘uninterruptible’ autopilot would be activated either by pilots, on board sensors or even by radio or satellite links by government agencies like the CIA, if terrorists attempt to gain control of the flight deck.
“Clearly Boeing and certain agencies have the capacity to take over ‘uninterruptible control’ of commercial airliners of which MH370 is one,” he said.
Mahathir said attempts to detect the plane by looking for debris and oil slick was a waste of money, adding that this was not an ordinary crash and that the plane was somewhere, maybe without MAS’ markings. “Boeing should explain about this so-called anti- terrorism auto-land system.
“I cannot imagine the pilots made a soft-landing in rough seas and then quietly drown with the aircraft,” he added.
The Boeing 777-200 plane, carrying 239 people, including five Indians, had mysteriously vanished on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. The plane had lost contact with air traffic controllers over the South China Sea.
Australia has been leading the hunt for the plane which is believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean but despite a massive air and sea search, including underwater using a US navy submersible, no sign of any wreckage has yet been found.
Investigators, including the FBI, are looking into a range of aspects, including hijack, sabotage, personal and psychological problems, that may have caused the incident.
Cawthorne then suggests that “another black box” could have been dropped off the coast of Australia to divert the efforts of search teams. “After all, no wreckage has been found in the south Indian Ocean, which in itself is suspicious,” he wrote.
Real time flight tracking systems
Malaysia says all commercial flights should be fitted with tracking systems to prevent repeats of missing flight MH370.The report from the Malaysian government said that there had been two occasions in the last five years in which large commercial aircraft had gone missing.
Richard Hartley-Parkinson in his report published in the Mirror.co.uk writes Malaysia released a preliminary report on missing Flight MH370 on Thursday (May 1, 2014) in which it recommended that the U.N. body overseeing global aviation consider introducing a system for tracking commercial aircraft in real time.
In the report dated April 9, but only just made available to the media, the ministry pointed to the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft and Air France Flight AF447 in 2009 as evidence that such real-time tracking would help to locate missing aircraft more easily in future.
“There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known,” the Transport Ministry said.
“This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner.”
The report called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to “examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real-time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft”. Flight MH370, which had 239 passengers and crew on board, disappeared off civilian radars while on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
The search for the Boeing 777-200ER is already the biggest in aviation history, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it had entered a new phase which could take six to eight months to complete.
Families of the missing passengers, the majority of whom are Chinese, have directed their anger largely at Malaysia’s authorities and military for failing to do enough to track the aircraft after it turned back after takeoff.
The report confirmed that military radar tracked a plane as it turned in a westerly direction across the Malaysian peninsula on the morning of March 8, and that it took no further action because the plane was deemed “friendly”.
However, it did not explain why Flight MH370 had been categorised as friendly even through its transponder was switched off by the time it turned back, one of many mysteries surrounding its fate that remain unanswered.
Still unknown is who or what led to MH370 veering off its original flight path and eventually ending up several thousand miles away in the southern Indian Ocean.
A 17-minute delay in querying missing MH370
Air traffic controllers took four hours to launch search and rescue operation, according to files released by Malaysian government.
Tania Branigan in Beijing and Gwyn Topham, transport correspondent in their article titled “MH370 report reveals 17-minute delay in querying missing plane” published in theguardian.com, Thursday 1 May 2014, wrote It took 17 minutes for air traffic controllers to realise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from their screens – and four hours to launch a rescue operation, according to documents issued on Thursday night by the Malaysian government.
The report, which was released with the plane’s cargo manifest, seating plan, and audio recordings of conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers, also called on the International Civil Aviation Organisation to consider real-time tracking of passenger airplanes.
The timing of the plane’s disappearance was one of the details that first aroused suspicions that it might have been done deliberately: it happened at the boundary of air traffic control zones, two minutes after authorities in Kuala Lumpur told the pilots they should next contact Vietnamese officials. They never did so – prompting workers in Ho Chi Minh city to raise the alarm. Kuala Lumpur has been widely criticised for its handling of the plane’s disappearance.
Doug Maclean, air traffic control consultant at DKM Aviation, said the delay in querying the missing plane was “extraordinary”. He said: “If an aeroplane went missing on a handover between two countries you would expect some kind of action within 3 to 5 minutes maximum. In Europe or America you would be on the phone within three minutes – 17 minutes is quite an extraordinary length of time.”
“We have procedures going over vast oceans where you might wait 30 or 40 minutes for a position report but in a radar environment you can see an aeroplane on the screen – so if you can’t see it, why is it not there?”
MH370 disappeared shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on 8 March, bound for Beijing, with 239 people on board. Investigators believe it was deliberately diverted but say they have not ruled out any possibility.
Vietnamese air traffic control began asking about the whereabouts of the plane at 1.38am local time, after it disappeared from their radar screens and did not make verbal contact. Nearby aircraft were asked to contact it if they could and Kuala Lumpur air traffic control tried the airline and counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong and Phnom Penh as it searched for the plane. Malaysian air traffic controllers did not activate the search and rescue operation until 5.30am, and do not appear to have contacted military authorities before activating the rescue – a four-hour period during which military radar showed a plane believed to be MH370 crossing Malaysia.
At 2.03am the Malysian air traffic controllers told their Vietnamese counterparts that, according to Malaysian Airlines, the aircraft was in Cambodian airspace. Only at 3.30am did they clarify that the supposed position was a projection based on the earlier flight path, and not based on any current signal.
Aircraft transponders and Acars systems disabled
Planes normally communicate with the ground via their transponders – which communicate with ground-based radars – and Acars systems. In the case of MH370, both of those systems appear to have been disabled around the time that the plane disappeared; the last Acars message was at 1.07am and the last transponder contact at 1.21am.
But the Acars system continued to make contact with satellites, and data shows that the plane flew on for several hours, with the last “handshake” at 8.19am. Specialist analysis of those contacts led Malaysia Airlines to announce weeks ago that it believed the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean with the loss of all lives.
The preliminary report states: “While commercial air transport aircraft spend considerable amounts of time operating over remote areas, there is currently no requirement for real-time tracking of these aircraft. There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner.
“Therefore, the Malaysian Air Accident Investigation Bureau makes the following safety recommendation to ICAO: it is recommended that the International Civil Aviation Organisation examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft.”
Some experts have suggested that flight data and cockpit voice recorders should stream information during flights. Others have asked whether it should be made impossible to disable transponders.
Malaysia’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said Malaysian military radar tracked an aircraft – now known to be MH370 – turning back across the Malay peninsula, but the operator categorised it as friendly so took no further action.
The radar data was reviewed at 8.30am on 8 March and within hours the prime minister ordered search and rescue operations to begin in the Straits of Malacca, off the west coast, in addition to the South China Sea search that had already begun. But news of a possible turn-back was not revealed until the following day, and even then no detail was offered.
The report was issued as the airline announced it will close the family support centres it has set up in hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing within the week and urged relatives to await further news “within the comfort of their own homes, with the support and care of their families and friends”.
Its CEO, Ahmed Jauhari Yahya, said the company was “acutely conscious of, and deeply sympathetic to the continuing unimaginable anguish, distress and hardship suffered by those with loved ones on board the flight”.
It also said it would make advanced compensation payments to the relatives, which would not affect their rights to claim compensation at a later stage. Search teams picked up signals they believe came from the aircraft’s black boxes last month, far off the west coast of Australia. But the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have yet to be found.
Earlier in the week, the aerial search for wreckage was called off on the assumption that any debris from the plane would have sunk already and the head of the Australian centre overseeing operations warned that they would be “doing well” if they completed an expanded search of the seabed within eight months. (HSH)