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Correcting the Record

Inaccurate media reporting on search for MH370

9 September 2016

An article, Inquiry into MH370 to probe ‘years of wasted effort’ by Byron Bailey which appeared in The Australian on 8 September 2016 contains inaccuracies that require correction and clarification.

Firstly, the article says that “the Australian Transport Safety Bureau decided on an unresponsive pilot scenario…”

The ATSB's suggested end-of-flight scenario only applies to the final segment of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a southerly direction into the Indian Ocean. This was for a period of about five-and-a-half hours. Analysis of the sequence of events and the SATCOM data matches most closely with a scenario in which there was no human intervention during that time, and most critically, the final phase of the flight when the aircraft had probably exhausted its fuel. 

Mr Bailey also states that “… instead of asking the advice of aviation professionals, they passed the baton to a group of scientists. These scientists with qualifications more suited to esoteric pursuits of gravitational waves and dark matter analysed the final satellite ping based on an unresponsive pilot scenario.”

The ATSB has consulted widely with aviation experts, including Boeing, the aircraft’s manufacturer.  The Search Strategy Working Group includes representatives from Boeing, the NTSB, the AAIB, Thales, INMARSAT, and the Defence Science and Technology Group. The world-leading scientists who specialise in satellite communications, aviation, physics, and probability are the most appropriate experts  to examine the satellite communication signals to determine the most likely final resting place of the aircraft.

Mr Bailey also states that the ATSB is a taxpayer-funded organisation that deals with road, rail, ship and aviation safety.

The ATSB is Australia’s national safety investigator for aviation, rail and maritime transport. The ATSB’s remit does not include road safety.

Mr Bailey’s article claims that the ATSB has no in-house aviation professionals, but is staffed by bureaucrats.

In fact, many of the ATSB’s investigators had extensive industry experience before joining the ATSB in a range of areas of aviation. These include airline and general aviation pilots, licensed aircraft maintenance engineers, aeronautical engineers, air traffic controllers and human factors specialists.

Mr Bailey also suggests an inquiry is needed into why the ATSB went with an unresponsive pilot scenario that ended in 2.5 years of wasted effort.

The search for MH370 is on-going and we continue to review all credible evidence that will help define the priority search area.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, working closely with other members of the Search Strategy Working Group, has defined the MH370 search area based on careful consideration of all of the pertinent evidence and analysis of all the hard data available.

 
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Last update 09 September 2016