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MH370 petition to search on

(Please note, this matter is not currently being litigated in Australia)

One year on and there is not a single demonstrable piece of evidence to back up any of the hypotheses postulated in response to the disappearance of the aircraft, including no proof to suggest that any theory advanced on any calculable technical front was (is) correct.

The families who are left behind are one year on from a day and an experience which has not ended for them.

We stand side by side with them in their vocal search for answers, and their earnest and deserved claims for justice.

We, like the families, remain convinced that inaction and failures in follow on the potential whereabouts of the aircraft (before the Inmarsat analysis was used to narrow down the search field), reflects one of several glaring omissions in the efforts of the search and rescue (SAR) and investigative authorities thus far.  The fact is that a thorough search of the "northern corridor" and the several easily disproved (if truly incorrect) "speculative" theories have not been excluded to the satisfaction of the families.  Neither has the full cargo manifest of the aircraft been released despite the issue of a Preliminary Report.

An ICAO meeting this week noted several of these deficiencies in the early minutes, hours and days of the search.  These do not just beg for regulatory intervention (which we have called for previously) but a massive rethink, reorientation, and reprioritisation of both SAR and family assistance efforts throughout the region.

Indicators of disorganisation and lack of preparedness for SAR

ICAO held its Fifth Meeting of the South Asia/Indian Ocean ATM Coordination Group in Bangkok from 3 to 6 March 2015.  A summary of the Related Meeting Outcomes published by the ICAO Secretariat described some of these mistakes in the context of describing what may be done instead in future.

We note that some of the outcomes of the ICAO Third Meeting of the Asia/Pacific Regional Search and Rescue Task Force (APSAR/TF/3) in the Maldives from 25-29 January 2015 were reported and include that these lessons should be incorporated into the Asia/Pacific SAR Plan. They are worth reproducing:

a) The time lapses of more than 16 minutes between the transfer of control point at [waypoint] IGARI and the advisory to Kuala Lumpur ACC that MH370 had disappeared, 38 minutes for the declaration of an INCERFA SAR phase and 7 hours and 21 minutes for the declaration of an ALERFA/DETRESFA SAR phase by Viet Nam indicates that there was a need to divert more resources and/or urgency in the ATC response;

 b) It is apparent that a higher degree of civil/military coordination may have revealed the MH370 course reversal much earlier, and as the track also crossed Thailand’s PSR coverage, advice to Thailand may have also proved beneficial. Considerable time had been lost in the initial search, partly due to poor civil/military cooperation;

 c) Annex 11 and Annex 12 SAR phases and actions needed to be revised (Annex 11, Section 5.2, and Annex 12, Section 5.2 refer) to take into account the expectations and capabilities of an ATS surveillance environment, the need for civil/military coordination where appropriate, and advisories to all neighbouring ACCs in the case of uncertainty of the aircraft’s track; and

 d) Poor SAR preparedness and ad hoc SAR coordination between States, including the intervention by political decision-makers needs to be addressed if an optimal operational response was that it was difficult to reconcile the primary radar trace with an airliner’s capability, adding further doubt at the time.

Paragraph 2.70 said of the March meeting summary noted:

Malaysia commented that the delay in the activation of the Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) was partially due to conflicting reports received from Malaysian Airlines (MAS) that the aircraft was still flying, based on their flight tracking system and reports on the media indicating that MH370 had landed safely in Nanning airport in Southern China. Upon further investigation, this information was found to be baseless and inaccurate, so time was wasted pursuing these unfounded reports.

Some rather glaring issues were admitted by the Malaysians at this meeting:

2.72 Malaysia commented that the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) did not have dedicated SAR officers, but utilised SAR-trained air traffic controllers. APSAR/TF/3 agreed that this may not be optimal, as SAR was an increasingly specialised task that required expert knowledge. In addition, Malaysia stated that lack of English proficiency between RCCs played a part in the difficulty of understanding information that was being conveyed, especially with the Ho Chi Minh RCC.

Australia’s suggestions sensibly included a need for:

a) adequate testing of systems (regular testing, or during SAR Exercise - SAREX) to ensure an efficient Annex 11/12 response;

b) States (or sub-regional/regional bodies) to minimise the ‘grey areas’ over unclear aeronautical-aeronautical and aeronautical - maritime SRR boundary responsibilities, especially in the latter case regarding an aircraft ditching into the sea;

c) improvements in the cooperation between international bodies such as Iridium, Cospas-Sarsat and Inmarsat to enhance technical data availability and analysis;

d) improvements in cooperation between States and State entities through ICAO Standards and State legislation (note: Annex 12 paragraph 5.1.1. merely refers to ‘SAR organisations’ being compelled to provide information to RCCs, whereas the scope of cooperation should be much wider);

e) air traffic controllers to have relief or a supervisor for emergency response support;

f) familiarisation of ATC unit and airline operating systems through regular visits/liaison by RCC personnel to relevant ATC units and Airline Operating Centres (AOCs);

g) RCC staff to be full-time specialised officers expert in the field of SAR;

h) appropriate training of military responders regarding civilian SAR systems and standards and recommended practices.

i) English language proficiency in all RCCs to ensure correct understanding of communications;

j) regular reports and access to information for key stakeholders (SITREPS and media such as the Internet);

k) providing authority and empowerment to SAR agencies and therefore SAR Mission Coordinators to effectively coordinate SAR responses through State legislative Acts;

l) management of undue external influences (such as political entities) on efficient RCC responses; and

m) a means of handling media/next-of-kin enquiries.

Families propose a petition to urge the continued search for answers

We support the families of flight MH 370 through their family association, Voice370, in their call to all those with responsibility for the search and investigation, to not only continue the search until it provides the answers the world and the families demand, but to diversify that search and show the world that no stone really is being left unturned in the aftermath of this unprecedented disaster.

It is abundantly clear no aviation mystery compares with MH370 in history. Hence the extensive use of the word "unprecedented" this last 12 months in all published comment on the subject.  But this makes it all the more vital that that same word (but with a negative connotation) not also end up being the way authorities’ are remembered for the way they deal with the families who merely seek transparency and answers.  There is still time for all involved to be responsive to these families.

At the request of Voice370 we ask any who read this, and agree with its sentiment, to sign the families' petition here, or to share it with like-minded others. Please return the signed pages directly to the family association, Voice370, at [email protected].

Voice370 also invites the world to join it in solidarity by way of a public event to be held in Kuala Lumpur on 8 March 2015. Click to read details of the event and a recent statement from the group.

For other enquiries you can contact us.


Accompanying image from Russavia, used under the following license. Image modified from its original state.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 5, 2015.

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