THREE key unanswered questions lie at the heart of the mystery surrounding what happened to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, with independent experts continuing to brand the Malaysian government’s official version of events a cover-up.
The flight, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, went missing in March 2014 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Despite an exhaustive search of the Indian Ocean’s seabed, and despite the discovery of scattered debris, the Boeing 777 has never been found, remaining the biggest mystery in aviation history.
An official 449-page report published by the Malaysian authorities in July said the cause could not be identified without the black box flight recorder, which has never been recovered.
The document went on to absolve pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah of blame – while cryptically adding that it could “not exclude the intervention of a third party”.
However, Mike Exner and Don Thompson, both members of the Independent Group (IG) which has been probing events surrounding the plane’s disappearance, claim the investigation was “heavily politically influenced, and delayed”, while US-based colleague Victor Iannello has reiterated his belief that the report was edited before publication.
The Independent Group is focusing on three key areas.
Firstly, they want a new analysis of radar data collected for MH370 in a bid to glean fresh information about the events leading up to its disappearance.
They told the West Australian newspaper: “The Safety Investigation Team has failed to provide any useful analysis of data from the military radar.
“It is important to establish if, when and where descents/climbs did occur and what impact that would have on fuel endurance and other implications.
“Of course, there are the somewhat incredible statements about Indonesian and Royal Thai Air Defence Surveillance radar assets not detecting the Boeing 777 in the northern Straits of Malacca.”
Another important area the pair are focusing on is the debris which has been found so far, which includes two parts, a flap and a flatiron, which came from adjacent positions on the plane’s starboard wing.
They said: “To the knowledge of the IG, the Malaysian team have not attempted any level of structural analysis to investigate the fractures of the flap carrier or the flaperon hinge — PCU attachment structures.”
In addition, the IG is calling for the collection of all available debris from Indian Ocean territories, explaining: “A significant part of the number two engine inlet cowl, the mounting root of a vortex generator chine, remains in Madagascar.
“This debris must be collected and analysed for additional clues.”
The third area the IG want examined concerns a lengthy telephone conversation between aircraft engineer Zulhaimi bin Wahidin, and MH370 captain Captain Zaharie Shah on February 2, 2014.
Mr Exner and Mr Thompson said: “What was the substance of that long conversation?
“And who made the three attempts to contact Captain Zaharie Shah later on the morning of the disappearance.”
In a blog published last month, Mr Iannello claimed the Malaysian report had been doctored, suggesting message logs released by the airline incomplete.
And in a follow-up post published days later, he added: “Today, Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport quietly released the full ACARS message log for MH370.
“The new log confirms that the traffic logs presented in previous reports were incomplete and edited, as asserted in a previous blog article.
“This release comes on the heels of a strong denial from Malaysia Airlines stating that it has “provided full cooperation and assistance to all respective authorities”.
Notably, the new log contains an additional ACARS message that was sent from MAS Operations Dispatch Center (ODC) and destined for MH370 over the VHF link.
“The message was sent at 18:38:51 and was intended to be displayed in the cockpit on a Control Display Unit (CDU), which a pilot uses to perform tasks such as programming the flight computers.”
Mr Iannello said the message had not been received by MH370, and had been re-sent by at 18:39:52, 18:40:42, and 18:41:52, failing each time.