Malaysia

MH370 three years on: Malaysia issues new interim statement

The Malaysian government has released a new interim statement on the third anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The Boeing 777 vanished on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. It was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Neither the main wreckage of MH370 nor its black box have been found despite a massive underwater search in the southern Indian Ocean, which was suspended on January 17.

However, debris believed to come from the plane has been discovered on the African mainland and on islands off the African coast.

The new interim statement by the MH370 safety investigation team¹ presents no fresh evidence or conclusions, but points to tests done on wing parts found in Reunion and Tanzania that the Malaysian government says have been confirmed to have come from MH370.

It states that examination of a right flaperon found on Reunion Island in July 2015 and a right outboard flap found on the Tanzanian island of Pemba in June 2016 has led to the conclusion that the flaps were “most likely” in the retracted position.

Experts say that this means that there would have not been a controlled ditching of MH370.

The flaperon found on Reunion Island (top), and the right outboard flap found on Pemba. (Photo courtesy of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.)

The Malaysian government says it has also been confirmed that the rear edge of an outboard flap found on Bernache Island in Mauritius in May 2016 came from MH370.

Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong La (pictured left) said at a remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur on March 4 that 25 pieces of debris had been found and analysed, and two more items were discovered in South Africa a fortnight ago.

There had been confirmation that three pieces of debris belonged to MH370, Liow said, and five others were “almost certainly” from the plane. Further analysis would be carried out on the remaining items.

The new interim statement says the testing carried out by the French authorities on the flaperon found in 2015 included flotation tests and examination of the barnacles found on the debris..

“Following the recovery of the flaperon more than twenty other floating components and debris, possibly from MH370, have been found as far north as the eastern coast of Tanzania and as far south as the eastern coast of South Africa,” it states.

“This is in addition to several islands and inland nations off the east coast of the African continent.”

The pieces of debris that were determined to be “almost certainly” from MH370 included some cabin interior items, the investigation team states.

“Recovery of the cabin interior debris suggests that the aircraft was likely to have broken up. However, there is insufficient information to determine if the aircraft broke up in the air or during impact with the ocean.”

At the time of writing the new statement, additional parts were still being found along the coasts of southeast Africa, and examination of those items was continuing, the team adds.

It says the members of the team are working towards finalising their analysis, findings and conclusions, and safety recommendations.

Eight particular issues are being reviewed:

  • MH370’s diversion from the filed fight plan route;
  • air traffic services operations;
  • flight crew profiles;
  • airworthiness and maintenance, and aircraft systems;
  • satellite communications;
  • wreckage and impact information;
  • the organisation and management of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation and Malaysia Airlines; and
  • MH370’s cargo consignment.

The investigation team added: “It should be recognised that, with the aircraft wreckage and flight recorders still not found, there is a significant lack of vital evidence available to the team to determine with any certainty the reasons that the aircraft diverted from its filed flight plan route.

“However, despite the limitations in available evidence, the investigation has identified several key issues within the civil aviation system that can be improved to enhance safety into the future.”

According to today’s statement, a final report on MH370’s disappearance “will be made publicly available in the months ahead”.

Voice370, which is the association for relatives of those on board MH370, made a statement yesterday (Tuesday) to clarify misunderstandings that have arisen over their launch of an initiative to raise finances for a new search for the plane.

The relatives want a further search to be conducted in the southern Indian Ocean, but in an area north of the zone that has been prioritised so far.

Next-of-kin at the remembrance event on March 4.

At the March 4 event, oceanographer Charitha Pattiaratchi (pictured left) from the University of Western Australia in Perth put the case for searching north of the previous priority zone.

He cited drift modelling that has led to the discovery of debris in Reunion, Mauritius, Madagascar, and South Africa.

The discovery of this debris, he says, indicates that MH370 went down north of the area that has been the main focus so far.

American amateur investigator Blaine Alan Gibson, who has found numerous pieces of plane debris, with items found on an island in eastern Madagascar.

The families say they are seeking “alternative funding”. They do not want those who have a responsibility to search for MH370 to be absolved of that responsibility.

The next-of-kin said in their new statement: “We hope the ministers of Malaysia, China, and Australia reconsider their decision to suspend the search at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Not pursuing the search is unacceptable. In the event that these governments are unwilling to resume the search of the newly recommended 25,000 square kilometres, we, the next-of-kin, will initiate an alternatively funded and managed search for MH370.”

The next-of-kin said they recognised that the search is “resource intensive, technical, managerial, logistical, and a coordinating challenge” and said the relatives could not claim capability or access to resources to lead or execute a new search.

“In light of this, we will work hand in hand with specialist and professional institutions capable of taking on this onerous search.”

The relatives said they were working on a framework that will provide for the following:

  • the participation of a multi-disciplinary team of experts;
  • the commissioning of suitable and safe vessels and equipment;
  • the involvement of government agencies and their professionals who have experience with the search over the past three years; and
  • “some serious financial contributions to make all the aforesaid possible”.

In response to numerous inaccurate media reports, Voice370 said: “The cost of the search spanning 120,000 square kilometres is public knowledge. It offers guidance on the order of costs that may be involved. However, no estimates of funds required to search the additional 25,000 square kilometres have been arrived at by next-of-kin.”

Voice370 also said the next-of-kin had not launched a new crowdfunding campaign for the MH370 search.

To date, Voice370 was not associated with, and did not endorse, any crowdfunding started by other parties, the association added.

A separate initiative has been launched by an organisation entitled Project370, which is crowdfunding to raise money to finance additional side scan sonar surveys of the Indian Ocean in search of MH370.

“The project is an initiative of several aviation safety enthusiasts, weather specialists, aviation safety investigators and interested supporters from ten countries around the world who grew concerned at the suspension of the official sea searches,” Project370 said in a statement.

“They decided that a combined effort stood a far better chance of success than several, fragmented attempts.”

Project370’s co-founder Mike Chillit, from Wisconsin in the United States, said: “There is only one relatively small area of the Indian Ocean from which the debris found to date could have originated.

“It is well north of the area already searched by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.”

There are those who remain unconvinced that the debris that has been found off the coast of Africa is from MH370.

The French journalist Florence de Changy, who has written a book about the tragedy entitled Le vol MH370 n’a pas disparu” (Flight MH370 did not disappear), cites experts who have doubts about the authorities’ stated conviction that the flaperon discovered on Reunion Island is from MH370.

De Changy does not believe the official version of events. She says it is absurd; that it is impossible in this hi-tech day and age for a Boeing 777 with 239 people on board to disappear. She is convinced that there are those who know what happened to the plane, and why.

The southern Indian Ocean search area was chosen on the basis of calculations by staff of the British company Inmarsat, who analysed satellite pings – or handshakes – from MH370.

Significant doubt has been cast on Inmarsat’s conclusions, however, and there are many who think the plane did not end up in the southern Indian Ocean at all.

For now, however, the next-of-kin consider that the northern zone favoured by Charitha Pattiaratchi is the place that should be searched.

Australian Danica Weeks, whose husband Paul was a passenger on MH370, was at the March 4 remembrance event with her sons Lincoln and Jack.

Grace Subathirai Nathan, whose mother Anne Daisy was on board MH370, speaking at the March 4 event.

 

Today, Malaysian MPs observed a minute’s silence in remembrance of those who were on board MH370 and there were remembrance gatherings in Malaysia, China, and Australia.

Relatives and friends of the Australians on board the plane went to St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane to mark the third anniversary of the tragedy.

Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, told those gathered at the Brisbane ceremony,  who included diplomats from Malaysia, China and New Zealand, that a memorial to those on board MH370 would be erected in Perth, which has been the base for the Indian Ocean search crews.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) held a remembrance ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It was attended by airline employees and relatives of the MAS staff who were on board flight MH370.

The Malaysian government releases interim reports about the findings of the international safety investigation team to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements.

The first interim report was 584 pages long. It revealed that the battery on the beacon of MH370’s flight data recorder expired more than a year before the plane disappeared.

The document contains extremely detailed technical information, but gives no clue as to what might have happened to the plane.

The second interim statement is just three pages long, and revealed no new conclusions.

First interim statement

Details of debris examination in Australia

1) If a final report cannot be made publicly available within twelve months, the state conducting the investigation is required to make an interim statement publicly available on each anniversary of the occurrence, detailing the progress of the investigation and any safety issues raised.

The MH370 safety investigation team comprises 19 Malaysians and accredited representatives from safety investigation authorities in seven other countries.

 

Update 11/03/2017

US lawsuit

A lawsuit has been filed in the United States against Boeing that alleges a series of catastrophic electrical and other failures on board MH370.

It is claimed that an electrical fire caused MH370 to depressurise, and the crew became incapacitated.

The plaintiffs in the case are lawyer Gregory Keith and the relatives of 44 passengers who were aboard MH370.

Keith filed the case in the US District Court in South Carolina.

The plaintiffs allege that Boeing knew about design flaws on the 777 aircraft, including defective wiring near combustible sources like the emergency oxygen supply to the plane’s crew.

They say that “the disappearance and crash of MH370 was caused or partially caused by defects in the design, manufacture and/or assembly of the aircraft”.

The lawsuit states: “The crash and loss of the passengers was a reasonable and foreseeable consequence of Boeing’s defective design, manufacture and/or assembly of the aircraft for which Boeing is strictly liable.”

According to the lawsuit, “the defects caused and/or allowed a massive and cascading sequence of electrical failures” on board MH370 that disabled vital systems, including the plane’s ACARS and Mode S Transponder, “making it impossible for the crew to navigate the plane or for the plane to communicate with the ground stations”.

The aircraft was left to fly until it ran out of fuel, the plaintiffs state.

The plaintiffs say that the failure to locate MH370 has resulted in “a lack of finality and an enduring mystery that has caused unprecedented levels of economic and non-economic losses, emotional and physical pain, distress and mental pain and suffering to those lost on the plane and to their families, the survivors, dependents, heirs, beneficiaries and estates”.

The lawsuit states that, at the time the plane that would become MH370 left the custody and control of Boeing, it was “defective and unreasonably dangerous” in several respects.

It says the aircraft’s electrical wiring was “defective and inadequately protected and installed and was subject to contact with combustible sources, including the oxygen supply hose in the flight crews’ emergency oxygen supply”.

The aircraft had combustible sources that were inadequately protected, “including conductive oxygen supply hoses in the flight crews’ emergency oxygen supply”, the plantiffs state.

They further state that the avionics and communications system in the cockpit of the aircraft, along with the plane’s transponder and pressurisation system, and the suppression systems in the cargo hold, were “defective and subject to failure”.

The plaintiffs state that the loss of MH370 and the “inability to find the plane” are substantially the result of Boeing’s decision not to equip MH370 with “readily available and reasonable alternative technologies that would have permitted the lost plane’s precise location to be tracked in real-time anywhere on the planet”.

They allege that the inability to find the plane is also the result of Boeing’s decision to equip MH370, its Flight Data Recorder (FDR), and its Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), with Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) and Underwater Locator Beacons (ULBs) that were ineffective.

“Boeing elected to equip the lost plane with these ineffective ELTs and ULBs despite the presence of other readily available and reasonable  alternative technologies that would have allowed the lost plane, the FDR, and the CVR to be tracked in real-time anywhere in the world, especially in cases of crashes, disruption of communications and other losses.”

The lawsuit states that before and on March 8, 2014, “and as the direct and proximate result of one or more of the above-described defective and unreasonably dangerous conditions in the lost plane”, the electrical systems failed, an electrical fire occurred on the lost plane, and there were failures of the avionics and communications system in the cockpit, the transponder, the pressurisation system, and/or the fire suppression systems in the cargo hold.

“Because of one or a combination of the above failures the flight crew become unresponsive, disorientated and/or unconscious, and the lost aircraft was caused to, and did, violently crash into the Indian Ocean and Plaintiff’s decedents were injured and caused to die and be lost, and their families unable to recover them and lay them to rest.”

The plaintiffs say Boeing has taken no actions to find the missing aircraft.

They point out that the official investigation concluded that there was adequate fuel for the planned flight and there were no weight or maintenance issues “which could have caused or contributed to the crash”. The investigating team found no evidence that “any pilot, passenger or other crew member caused or contributed to the loss of the plane and crash” and no evidence had surfaced of pilot or other crew or stowaway suicide or terrorism being the cause.

The ATSB report in December 2015 stated that there was no evidence to suggest that the aircraft was under controlled flight, the plaintiffs add.

“The ATSB previously concluded that the most likely cause of the disappearance and crash of Flight MH370 was a massive and cascading sequence of electrical failures onboard the Boeing airplane,” the lawsuit states.

“Boeing knew or should have known that the design of its electrical systems, control systems, fire suppression, oxygen, communications, control, tracking and/or warning systems, their improper installation, and/or their defects, would result in failures,” they add.

“Boeing was aware that these electrical systems were inadequate and this was dangerous … exposing Plaintiff’s decedents to unreasonable risk, injury, loss and death.”

The plaintiffs are seeking “all damages as allowed by law, including punitive and/or exemplary damages, interest as allowed by law, and costs” and are demanding “trial by jury on all issues triable as of right by a jury”.

 

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