Senate to grill Australian transport safety bureau over failed MH370 search

Balloons with the names of the victims of flight MH370 are tied together during the MH370 anniversary in Publika, March 16, 2016. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Balloons with the names of the victims of flight MH370 are tied together during the MH370 anniversary in Publika, March 16, 2016. — Picture by Choo Choy May

CANBERRA, May 17 — The Australian government’s transport safety investigator will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny over its handling of the US$150 million (RM595.3 million) hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, reports Xinhua news agency.

MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Radar and satellite tracking indicated it went down in the southern Indian Ocean. An Australian Senate estimates hearing next Tuesday will be held as pressure grows for a full investigation into the handling of the two-year search by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

The bureau is accused of ignoring evidence that debunked its theory of how MH370 went down, with some airline pilots demanding a government-appointed Royal Commission.

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick told the Australian newspaper yesterday that he would be asking questions of the ATSB about the MH370 search.

In any circumstance where A$200 million of taxpayer money has been spent and credible sources raise questions as to the approach or efficacy, some form of inquiry is worthy, Patrick said.

The probe of the bureau’s investigation follows a forensic analysis of MH370 wreckage by Canadian air-crash investigator Larry Vance.

Vance claims in his book that damage to the right flap and flaperon of MH370 found on islands off Africa indicated a pilot ditched the aircraft in a controlled manner.

He dismisses the ATSB’s theory of a high-impact, pilotless steep dive.

MH370’s location might well depend on which scenario is correct, with Vance and several veteran pilots adamant it was flown outside the 120,000 sq km search zone designed by the ATSB.

The bureau assumed the pilots were incapacitated at the end of the flight. Pilots have called for a fresh search south of the southern border of the ATSB’s original target zone.

They claim Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah could have flown the Boeing 777 further than would have occurred on autopilot.

Vance said the ATSB’s failure to properly re-evaluate its search strategy after the flaperon was found in July 2015. Mike Keane, the former chief pilot of Britain’s largest airline easyJet, said this week that if the ATSB had knowingly ignored evidence, its search strategy was flawed and the bureau would be complicit in covering up the mass murder of people on board. — Bernama

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