I am but one of many millions of citizens around the world, whose heart has reached out the 239 families of the crew and passengers of the ill-fated Malaysian Airways flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpar to Beijing. We have lurched from the terrorist pilot and gold bullion theories, to shadow flights and alien abductions, all with the apparent goal of explaining a complex situation. This flight is now set in the firmament of public thinking that will remain with us for many generations, with many quietly acknowledging the tragedy of what has happened but there will be those who will remain sceptic to their very core. What is missing from this major international travel event is best summed up by the Chinese relatives who apparently stated that:
- 'the airline, government and military has “continually and extremely delayed, hidden and covered the facts, and attempted to deceive the passengers’ relatives, and people all over the world.”'
Like many people, they were expecting perhaps that truth, honesty and management by both government and airline were exhibited; instead it appears that they and we have been treated to incompetence and at times, incredulity!
As a frequent air passenger, I accept the security obligations and dutifully remove my shoes and belt, and where the metalwork in my leg sets off the alarm, I happily allow myself to be searched. This security path is now so drilled into us, that we are engaged in its processes long before we even get to the airport. We ensure that our passports data matches our ticket information, we make declarations when we check-in on-line for that we have packed our own luggage and we take measures to only have the minimum liquids within our bags.
In return for these 'obligations' I expect that my data is held securely, that my check-in process confirms what I have stated, that airport security is competent and thorough and that the aircraft is fit for purpose and that the crew have not only undergone rigorous and regular checks but that they are also competent at their job.
So you see, flying is not just about a piece of paper, it is a connection of related issues that provides us with the necessary assurance that we are safe to fly.
I have followed the debate on flight of MH370 closely, and now that it has been apparently found, I have some nagging questions that I think ought to be answered, not just for the 239 families, but for all air passengers. In asking these questions, I think that full responses should now be given; the authorities and the airline are in my view now morally obligated to do so:
- What is the full operational and service history of the aircraft used for flight MH370; what is revealed by its service record - did it suffer with electrical, fire or decompression problems, did it suffer with engine problems, were there problems with the airframe, how many complaints or records exist that demonstrate that fumes or smoke were evident in the cabin air that crew or passengers breathed; how were any of those problems recognised or resolved?
- We must leave aside any claim to privacy; what was listed on the aircraft's cargo manifest?
- Why were passengers with false passports allowed to board the aircraft?
- Between 01.20hrs and 02.00hrs on the 8 March 2014, when the transponder stopped operating, what actions were taken by the Malaysian and Vietnamese Civil Aviation Authorities to try and establish contact with the aircraft?
- Between 01.20hrs and 02.00hrs on 8 March 2014, when the aircraft turned sharply west, what actions did the Malaysian and Vietnamese Authorities take to investigate; what radar records exist and why did'nt either military send up its own aircraft to investigate an aircraft that had dramatically deviated from its projected course?
- Between 02.00hrs and 02.15hrs on 8 March 2014, when flight MH 370 flew over the Thai land-mass and close to the western border of Malaysia, what actions were taken by both sovereign authorities, either via government or military, to determine why an unscheduled aircraft had deviated over their land - if they did not liaise with each other, why not?
- Between 02.00hrs and 02.15 hrs on 8 March 2014, when MH370 was flying over Thailand and close to the western border of Malaysia and into the Malacca Straits, why didn't either military (Thai or Malaysian) send aircraft to investigate this unexpected invasion of their respective airspace?
- With regard to the Malaysian, Vietnamese and Thai Government's, their Military and Agencies; who knew what, when and what action did they take in that first critical 1 hour period and within each hourly period thereafter up until 72 hours?
- In the case of the Malaysian Government, what briefing notes were prepared throughout this crisis; we call for the publication of all briefing notes, in their original form, used by and for the benefit of all Malaysian Government Officials?
- Given that it appears that the flight path has been 'modelled' from satellite information, what was the exact flight path of MH370 on a minute by minute basis?
- With regards to the press conferences, why were victims families jostled and man-handled in such a public manner; what disciplinary or criminal action will be taken against those who assaulted these family members?
- Why have world governments and this airline and indeed the world airlines not installed automated transponders on civilian aircraft following the events of 11 September 2001?
It will be interesting to see the responses to these questions; I expect that the aviation and government establishment will now go into hiding behind the veneer of the search for the black box, but you know, these families and the flying public deserve the answers to these and I suspect many more questions!