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Malaysia under pressure despite flight data

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of Malaysias Civil Aviation Department, speaks to reporters in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: Getty

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of Malaysias Civil Aviation Department, speaks to reporters in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: Getty

  • by EILEEN NG IN KUALA LUMPUR
 

The Malaysian government has released raw satellite data it used to determine that the missing Malaysian Airlines plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

Authorities were responding to demands for greater transparency by relatives of the 239 people on board flight MH370.

But one independent expert said his initial impression was that the 45 pages of communication logs did not include key assumptions, algorithms and metadata needed to validate the investigation team’s conclusions that the plane headed south after vanishing from radar screens 90 minutes into the flight.

Michael Exner, a satellite engineer who has been researching the calculations, said: “It’s a whole lot of stuff that is not very important to know. There are probably two or three pages of important stuff, the rest is just noise. It doesn’t add any value to our understanding.”

No trace of the jet has been found after it went missing almost three months ago en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

Several family members have been highly critical of the Malaysian government’s response, accusing it of failing to release timely information and even concealing data. The government – which in the earliest days after the incident released contradictory information about the plane’s movements – insists it is being transparent.

An international investigation team led by Malaysia concluded the jet flew south after it was last spotted on Malaysian military radar and ended up in the southern Indian Ocean off western Australia. This conclusion is based on calculations derived largely from hourly transmissions between the plane and a communications satellite.

An unmanned US Navy submarine that has been scouring a 155 square mile patch of seabed since April was scheduled to finish its mission yesterday. The Bluefin 21 has been searching an area where sounds consistent with an aircraft black box were detected last month.

The next search phase will be conducted over a much bigger area – about 23,000 square miles.

Sarah Bajc, whose husband was on the flight, has been at the forefront of a campaign to press the Malaysian government for more transparency.

She said “a half-dozen very qualified people” were looking at the information and she hoped to have their views soon.

And in a posting on its Facebook page, a group representing some of the victims’ families said: “Finally, after almost three months, the Inmarsat raw data is released to the public. Hope this is the original raw data and can be used to potentially ‘think out of the box’ to get an alternative positive outcome.”

In China, home of about two-thirds of the passengers, several relatives said Malaysia Airlines had not informed them of the release of information.

Steve Wang, whose mother was on the plane, said he was disappointed that the release did not contain an account of exactly how investigators reached the conclusion that the plane had taken the southern route.

“We cannot analyse the raw data, but we need to see the deduction process and judge by ourselves if every step was solid,” he said. “We still need to know where the plane is and what is the truth. ”

Duncan Steel, a British scientist and astronomer, said some of the data “may” explain the belief the aircraft went south rather than north, but further confirmation would take time.

He added: “One can see no conceivable reason that the information could not have been released nine or ten weeks ago.”

 

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