Critical Data Was Delayed in Flight Search

Image: Critical Data Was Delayed in Flight Search Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, Malaysia's minister for transport Hishamuddin Hussein, left, and director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, at a March 15 press conference regarding missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370.

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 07:21 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The Malaysian government was given critical satellite data showing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 flew away from the areas being searched but failed to act on it for four days.

According to The Wall Street Journal, on March 11 Britain's Inmarsat satellite operator produced data analysis and other documents indicating the plane wasn't anywhere near the region around Malaysia where the international search effort was being conducted for three days.

It was not until March 15 that Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak publicly acknowledged the information and redirected the search effort, a delay from which investigators are still working to recover, the Journal reported.

Najib insisted at the time that Malaysia "worked hand in hand with our international partners, including neighboring countries" and "shared information in real time with authorities who have the necessary experience to interpret the data."

But another government official told the Journal that the government was cautious about revealing and acting on the information because "we don't want to upset anybody with round after round of confusing information."

The prime minister had instructed officials early in the investigation that all incoming data and information needed to be corroborated with agencies such as the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration before being released publicly.

The disclosures about the delays indicate how the international collaboration has been fraught with distrust and confusion, leading some countries to suspend or change their search efforts. China, in particular, has been critical of Malaysia's coordination efforts.

Inmarsat's team started searching for clues within hours of the flight's disappearance on March 8, and by late that weekend had uncovered hourly signals which indicated the missing plane was most likely still intact with its engines running hours after it lost contact with civilian radar, according to the Journal.

It had also showed the plane's change of course, which demonstrated the need to change the search areas.

After they became concerned the data was not being acted on by Malaysian officials, the Inmarsat team turned to the U.K. security authorities. Malaysia Airlines then began using the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch as the primary conduit for ongoing analysis and information.


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