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Friday, March 28, 2014

Ex-MP: MAS workshop fire possible sabotage?


The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 enters its third week today, amid foul weather that has grounded search aircraft in Perth since yesterday.

The severe weather - which includes heavy turbulence and ‘near zero visibility’ - is expected to end only at about noon today, but six ships have remained in the search area to keeping looking for signs of the missing aircraft.

This comes as both Thailand and Japan add to the growing list of countries whose satellites have picked up objects floating at sea near the vicinity of the search radius, hopefully debris from Flight MH370.

Searchers scouring the ocean have about a week to find the aircraft and its black box before the task is made more difficult when its ‘pinger’ runs out of batteries, and about a month before winter ushers in even worse weather including waves up to 15 metres high.

Below are updates and the latest coverage from various sources and news agencies:

2pm: The brother-in-law of Indonesian family Firman Chandra Siregar denies that the family has engaged a law firm to obtain information from MAS and aircraft manufacturer Boeing in a prelude to a lawsuit.

In a letter to Indonesian portal Detik.com, Clemens Triaji Bektikusuma says the family did not authorise the petitioner to act on their behalf and has no plans to do so.

The letter has been copied to the Malaysian government.

Earlier, Reuters reported that Firman's uncle Januari Siregar had filed the petition through Chicago lawfirm Ribbeck Law.

Pilot's simulator probe comes up empty

12.55pm: FBI analysts examining MH370’s pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s flight simulator have yet to find any clues that might shed light on the aircraft’s disappearance, the Wall Street Journalreports.

“The bureau is wrapping up its study of the hard drives this week, and investigators had hoped that a close examination of the data - including deleted files on the flight simulator - might offer new leads to pursue,” says the report, quoting two unnamed officials who are supposedly familiar with the analysis.

The report adds that the FBI will turn over its findings to the Malaysian government.

Search cost could be ten times Air France

12.30pm: As the search for MH370 draws on, Chinese scientist is warning that the operation could become the most expensive in aviation history, up to ten times more than the annual cost of the two-year hunt for Air France Flight 447’s black box back.

"If the operation is stretched to a long-term search for years, USD$200 million (RM655.5 million) per year is barely enough to maintain the multinational effort," says Ocean University of China oceanographer Zhao Chaofang, according to the South China Morning Post today.

The report says France and Brazil spent more than USD$40 million (RM131.1 million) over two years to search for Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.

Avionics fire raises eyebrows

11.35am:  MAS in a statement clarifies that the fire at its Subang Avionics Shop "was brought under control immediately" and there were no injuries or damage "to the confined area of the corridor".

Avionics are electrical equipment used in an aircraft. They include the black box data transponder, navigational and communications equipment.

This is the fourth mishap reported involving MAS since MH370 disappeared.

Earlier MAS MH114's landing in Kathmandu, Nepal, was struck by a flock of ducks, while MH066 was diverted from Seoul to Hong Kong due to aircraft generator failure.

Previous search 'not a waste of time'

11.30am: Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) holds a joint press conference with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ASTB). This is what they say:
  • The search are has been revised northeast and is now 1,100 kilometres away from the original search site due to new analysis on existing data.
     
  • The new search zone is out of the 'Roaring Fourties' area known for turbulent waves and weather. This means searchers will have more time on scene with kinder weather.
     
  • The area is 319,000 square kilometre wide while the water depth is 2.000 to 4,000metres and accounts for drift of possible debris.
     
  • No debris was sighted from the earlier search area, and none sighted yet today. Amsa says satellite images are not necessarily debris fields, as while it shows floating objects, the objects could be anything.
     
  • The previous area searched is now abandoned, but it is not considered a "waste of time". Amsa says "new info to emerge out of sequence of operations" is normal in search and rescue or recovery (SAR) missions.
     
  • ATSB says that the area will be refined further and there is still a "long search" ahead.
     
  • If any debris is found, Australia will hold it on behalf of Malaysia until further instruction, following international conventions.
     
  • A US towed pinger locator and Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle have arrived in Perth to assist with location and recovery of the black box.
     
MAS: Think of families before speculating

11.15am: MAS urges the public to consider the affect on the families of those on board Flight MH370 when speculating about the issue.

“Their anguish and distress increase with each passing day, with each fresh rumour, and with each false or misleading report,” says MAS chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya in a statement, amidst speculation that the aircraft had been hijacked by one of the pilots.

He also pledged to give what information it can, but points out that MAS’ ability to do so is constrained by ongoing investigations.

Searchers fight fatigue as search drags on

10am: Resting on their elbows, eyes darting about and with a binoculars within arm’s reach, spotters on aircraft are battling fatigue as they comb the vast Indian Ocean for signs of MH370.

"It is incredibly fatiguing work," says Flight Lt Stephen Graham, who serves as the tactical coordinator for the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion crew that is involved in the search.

“The P-3 has a lot of really advanced sensors and they're really useful in our other roles, but for search and rescue, when you can't guarantee a large or a metallic target, vision is the best that you've got,” he says in an article published by the AP.

The report describes the monotony of the search, and crew members such as Graham undergo over a year of training in spotting techniques, including techniques for overcoming fatigue.

He remains optimistic, however, despite the vastness of the search area, saying, “You might be looking for a single canoe in the vastness of the Pacific and we do find them. So there is always hope.

Read full story here.

Radar analysis shows 'plane was flying faster' 

9.29am: Amsa announces that search area will shift 1,100kilometre northeast of the current search radius to account for the “latest credible lead” provided by the international investigation team in Malaysia.

That means search teams will now cover 319,000 square kilometres some 1,850kilometres west of Perth.

“The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)... has examined this advice (by team in Malaysia) and determined that this is the most credible lead to where debris may be located,” it says in a statement.

Amsa adds that continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca before radar contact was lost, “indicates the aircraft was travelling faster than previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance the aircraft travelled south into the Indian Ocean”.

Meanwhile, the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation is re-tasking satellites to image the new area.

It also reports improved weather, with 10 aircraft tasked for today’s search. Read more here.

Six satellite sightings to date

9am: To recap, Japan and Thailand have separately announced new sightings of suspected debris yesterday near where MH370 is believed to have crashed, via their own satellites. They found 300 objects and 10 objects respectively.

This is in addition to several earlier sightings made by other countries hundreds of kilometres apart, namely Australia, China, France, and Malaysia – sometimes by analysing satellites images taken by a third party.

However, to date none of these suspected debris have been recovered for confirmation whether it is related to MH370, which is a vital step towards narrowing down the search area.

It is only after the search area is narrowed down when sophisticated equipment such as pinger locators can be brought in to begin its slow, methodical search for the aircraft’s black box, and hopefully answers to the MH370 mystery.

'Must get initial location right'

8.20am: The US Navy says is sending a second P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Perth today to join the search for MH370, while its P-3 Orion aircraft that has previously searched the Northern Indian Ocean is being recalled to its base in Okinawa, Japan.

In a statement released just after midnight today, it says the severe weather in the search area makes the addition of this all-weather aircraft ‘especially valuable’.

"It's critical to continue searching for debris so we can reverse-forecast the wind, current and sea state since March 8 to recreate the position where MH370 possibly went into the water.

“We've got to get this initial position right prior to deploying the towed pinger locator since the MH370's black box has a limited battery life and we can't afford to lose time searching in the wrong area," says US 7th Fleet oceanographer Tom Moneymaker.

Search resumes to find possible debris

8am: The Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (Amsa) confirms today’s search efforts are back on track at the south Indian Ocean.

Ten aircraft will depart for the search area from Perth in stages, starting with a Chinese Il-76 aircraft (left). The last departure will be at about 2pm Malaysian time, for a US Navy P-8 Poseidon and a Japanese P-3 Orion.

It takes about four hours to fly to the search area from Perth.

Operations were hampered by severe weather yesterday, forcing planes to withdraw, while search ships remain in an attempt to locate one of hundreds of debris sighted by various satellites and those spotted by air surveillance over the course of the past few days.

Background:
  • The Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200ER aircraft went missing not long after taking off from KL International Airport in the early hours of March 8, with 12 crew members and 227 passengers.
     
  • Authorities have determined the plane intentionally made a turn-back and altered its course shortly after cutting communications with tower controllers for unknown reasons.
     
  • Its whereabouts is now narrowed to the southern Indian Ocean after employing a "new analysis" method to deduce the location based on six pings the aircraft sent out to British satellite communications provider Inmarsat's satellite before disappearing into the waters.

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