PETALING JAYA: The world, and especially the aviation industry, has something to learn from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Najib said that he believed, despite having borne the brunt of criticism with regard the search for the missing plane, in time, Malaysia will be credited for doing its best in an unprecedented and near-impossible situation.
“It is no small feat for a country the size of ours to overcome diplomatic and military sensitivities and bring 26 different countries together to conduct one of the world’s largest peacetime search operations.
“But we didn’t get everything right. In the first few days after the plane disappeared, we were so focused on trying to find the aircraft that we did not prioritise our communications,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that although it took air traffic controllers four hours to launch a search and rescue operation, the time was a third quicker than that during the Air France Flight 447 tragedy in 2009.
Najib, however, stressed that the response time should and would be investigated, and that Malaysia would continue with the search for the missing Boeing 777 for as long as it takes.
“We will also continue facilitating the independent investigation so we can learn from any mistakes.
“We have already tightened airport security, and investigators are looking for other measures to improve safety,” he said.
Najib added that there were a lot of lessons to be learnt from the incident by other parties, including the global aviation industry.
“One of the most astonishing things about this tragedy is the revelation that an airliner the size of a Boeing 777 can vanish, almost without a trace.
“In an age of smart phones and mobile Internet, real-time tracking of commercial airplanes is long overdue,” he said.
Najib also lamented that after the crash of Air France 447, investigators had recommended for the aviation industry to introduce improvements that could help speed up search and rescue processes but no actions were taken.
“Malaysia’s preliminary report into MH370 includes a recommendation for the real-time tracking of commercial aircraft.
“This week, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been meeting in Montreal.
“One of the issues discussed was real-time tracking of airliners and I strongly encourage the members of ICAO to push this recommendation forward,” he said.
Najib also suggested that due consideration be given to the changing of communication systems, namely transponders and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting Systems (ACARS), to ensure that they could not be disabled mid-air.
He also recommended for the review of airlines’ black boxes capabilities.
“If MH370’s black-box pinger had lasted for 90 days instead of 30, search teams may have been able to locate the plane by now,” Najib said.
He also said that as the black box only records the last two-hours of cockpit conversation, the most important part of the conversation would not be available.
“Given that a standard iPhone can record 24 hours of audio, surely the black box should have sufficient memory to record cockpit conversation for the full duration of any flight.
“These changes may not have prevented the MH370 or Air France 447 tragedies. But they would make it harder for an aircraft to simply disappear, and easier to find any aircraft that did,” said Najib
He stressed that the global aviation industry must not only learn from the MH370 incident, but also implement changes to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.
“The same mistake must not be made again,” he said.