Thursday, 27 March 2014


Saturday 8 Mar 2014 is etched as a tragic morning for Malaysia and also our aviation history. Earlier  media reports quoted that MH 370 had made an emergency landing in Nanking and this came as a relief to us.However, moments later the situation changed and this transformed into a nightmare for the nation when told about the  disappearance of MH 370.This was  "May Day' for the nation as we were not the only people shocked by this tragedy but the whole world too was stunned.

No one knows exactly what went wrong with many speculations.Whatever the situation the flickers of hope in finding survivors was finally extinguished when the Prime Minister announced on 24 Mar 2014 that "MH 370 ended it's flight in the Indian ocean'. Nevertheless the nation will continue to pray that search parties can locate MH 370 and with this discovery comes the next mammoth phase, the recovery and salvage operations. More questions rather than answers popped up each day connected with MH 370. Similar predicaments were experienced on the evening of 4 Dec 1997 when MH 653 too went off the radar en route from Bayan Lepas to Singapore only to be discovered having crashed into a swampy  area at Tanjung Kupang in Johor. 

Reminiscing MH 653, that evening 4 Dec 1997,I was the Duty Officer at Penang Police HQ Operations Room and  the tv series "Combat"  was on air when  suddenly a phone call came  with the shocking news  about the disappearance of flight MH 653 from the radar over Tg Kupang, Johor. With the confirmation on this unfortunate information made,I immediately  pushed the 'action button' rounding up all those involved in handling flight MH 653 that fatal evening to assemble at the Bayan Lepas old airport. Simultaneously  those who should be made aware of the incident were  duly informed. Passenger security checks at that time  were solely handled by MAS security personnel.Investigations were carried out and similarly MH 653 too, had exposed serious security loopholes  which in the course of time remedial steps were taken to tightened security.Unfortunately tight is not tight enough as apparent with what had happened. More stringent measures will surely be implemented which in turn will no doubt make air travel more cumbersome. The Tanjung Kupang incident eventually led to the establishment of the  Auxiliary Police the authority now handling passengers security checks at all airports.

MH 653, although concluded as a case of hijacking, had certainly remained a mystery till this very day. What else can it be when it happened not long after the Japanese Red Army hostage situation in Kuala Lumpur.In addition there were a handful of Japanese passengers on board. Also  listed on the passengers manifest of MH 653 were the  Minister of Agriculture, Ali Hj Ahmad, his body guard, Mario Garcia, the Cuban Ambassador and his wife. Personally, I  lost two friends on this ill fated flight. The Flight Data Recorder though recovered  it did nothing much to clear the air of uncertainty as important segments of the recordings were said to be 'inaudible' due to the 'extensive damage' on this gadget. So what else to say.Who did what on MH 653 no one know? Only the Almighty knows what went wrong on the MAS flight en route to Singapore on 4 Dec 1977.

Will it be the same with MH 370 ?  Personally, I hope not and let's pray for the best and God help us to eliminate all doubts surrounding this drama as the credibility of not only our airline is at stake but the nation on the whole.As in the case of MH 653 this sad incident too had, no doubt,  also exposed weaknesses in the handling  of this crisis despite   previous experiences we have had. Experiences handling the explosion at Bright Sparklers, the Penang Ferry Terminal  and the Highland Towers collapse  should have hardened our capabilities and professionalism in  crisis management. What is more  important now is ensure that plans are  laid out meticulously to assemble a team of credible, capable and good investigators to investigate incident and  establish the cause.

Whatever happened to the  National Security Council   MKN 20 is not known as this  code clearly stipulated the line of actions in handling a mass disaster.Confusions and contradictions marred the initially handling of MH 370. Who held overall command and control of the situation was apparently unclear. Probably the MKN 20  needed to be re examined and further enhanced especially ,in a case like this with  multinational  involvement.At the same time it is equally important to focus on matter of jurisdiction.Whether  an international code on a tragedy such as this is necessary to ensure a well coordinated operations amongst the nations affected?

Are our aviation systems on land, in space and those in our aircraft up to expectations. Are our available asset, military or civilian, credible enough to handle the situation?How embarrassing can it be when told that our submarines were   not suited for this type of operations. Can we be self reliance or have we to  be dependent on others? Equally surprising to know why were the trans responders in a state of the art aircraft like Boeing 777 unable to function at a time when we needed them most? Is there a probability that  someone deliberately shutdown the system in the ill fated plane that disabled all other controls in the plane causing the pilot to have difficulties maneuvering the aircraft resulting in MH 370 ending it's journey in the Indian ocean when fuel supply was depleted. Are we technically at par with other advance countries in the field of civil aviation or we rather be complacent with mediocre equipments which obviously places safety at risks. 

Let us back track a little on the flight to Beijing by MH 370 on the night of 8 Mar 2014.When the Malaysian Air Traffic controller lost contact with MH 370 at a position when the plane was near the Vietnam border how many times were attempts made to reestablish contact with the plane? We were told that 'MH 370 turned back to KLIA', as quoted by the Chief of Armed Forces and this was clearly an indication that something is not right about the flight.How many attempts were made to communicate with MH 370 when the plane turned back? What was to be done when no responses were received from  MH 370 after that several attempts? There surely must be a SOP that   warrant our jets to be scrambled to check  this or any UFO?   If this was done probably it would have been a different scenario entirely for MH 370.Now, this seems more like a case of 'after all is said and done  more is  said than done'. Probably it didn't cross the minds of those air controllers about the existence of a squadron of Shukoi jets stationed in Terengganu. In a circumstance like this does it not justify that our jets go check the situation out? Something is amiss and someone is sleeping on his job and an inquiry is necessary. After all what have we to lose if we sent up our jets  can as an exercise on quick response  for the pilots anyway. I hope this again is not a case of  our  Shukoi jets  are not suited  for night flying or for this type of sortie as reported by the Minister of Transport revealing that our submarines were not sent to the SAR area as they were unsuitable for such duties.Aren't we supposed to have something better?

Are SOP put in place rigidly adhered to. The government is seen doing it's best but one thing for sure, more has to be done on aviation safety and security as the people need to be given the best  the government can offer.

Whatever the situation my sympathies still goes to those who have lost relatives or friends on board.While the situation remains ambiguous, I humbly  salute the crew members who had a role to play on the flight and in particular the flight commander and his deputy.Let us not jump into conclusions. As rightly said - 'Innocent until proven guilty'.The commander and his deputy together with the crew would have tried their very best for the passengers. For those heartless people out there  how would they feel if one of the passenger were to be their loved one?I pray that that probably some survivors are found and what will the situation be when the truth unfold. This is an act of the Almighty and HE and only HE alone knows what we human do not. I pray for those who perished and may the Almighty forgive them and bless their souls.  Also I pray that  the families of those who perished do accept this as a fate by God and to pull themselves together as life has to go on.Bless them all!

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