MH370: Probe reveals expired locator beacon battery

MH370: Probe reveals expired locator beacon battery

KUALA LUMPUR - The battery in the flight data recorder's underwater locator beacon had expired, lithium-ion batteries were not thoroughly screened and the duty supervisor was asleep when a call was made some four hours after Flight MH370 went missing.

These are some of the curious nuggets from the nearly 600-page compilation of information gathered by a 19-man team investigating the mystery of the missing plane.

The team suggested that the supervising controller at the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre (KLATCC) was asleep when a call was made four hours after MH370 disappeared.

In the transcript released yesterday, a presumably senior Malaysia Airlines staff at MAS Operations asked the KLATCC controller if there was a positive handover by MH370 to Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control.

The controller had started the four-minute long conversation with MAS at 5.20am, where the MAS officer repeatedly pressed the controller for details, especially whether there was any positive handover between KLATCC and Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control.

The controller replied he only took over tower operations after 3am, and wasn't sure about the details.

The MAS worker's continual request for information led the controller to say that he would wake his supervisor up.

"Aaaa ... never mind laa I wake up my supervisor and ask him to check again to go to the room and check what the last contact all this thing lah," the controller said at 5.23am.

Investigators also found that the battery of the flight data recorder's underwater locator beacon expired in December 2012, well over a year before the plane vanished.

"The Engineering Maintenance System (EMS), a computer system used to track and call out maintenance, was not updated correctly when the Flight Data Recorder was replaced on Feb 29, 2008," investigators said.

An update would normally involve the removal of the old unit followed by the installation of the new unit. However in this instance, while the removal of the old unit was recorded in the EMS, the installation was not.

"Since the EMS was not updated, it did not trigger the removal of the flight data recorder for replacement of the underwater locator beacon battery when it was due," said investigators, who added that the battery of the cockpit voice recorder's underwater locator beacon was replaced.

In early April, Chinese and Australian search vessels picked up some pings over the search area, but the signals then faded away.

The pings were later deemed unlikely to be from the flight data recorders.

Investigators also confirmed that 221kg of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries carried in the aircraft did not pass through security checks.

The batteries, from Motorola Solutions Penang, were assembled and packed in Bayan Lepas on March 7 before being transported by truck to the KL International Airport.

The shipment "did not go through security screening" in Penang but was physically inspected by MASKargo personnel and was cleared by Customs before being sealed and allowed to leave the Penang Cargo Complex.

Nonetheless, the battery shipment had adhered to packaging guidelines under the International Civil Aviation Organisation Technical Instructions for Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, and the 55th Edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR)

The batteries were part of a 2,453kg consignment also containing walkie-talkie accessories and chargers.

Malaysia Airlines made 99 shipments of Li-ion batteries to Beijing between January and May 2014.

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