Not easy to act in real time when catastrophe strikes, says airline association

Not easy to act in real time when catastrophe strikes, says airline association

KUALA LUMPUR - During a developing catastrophe, people must understand that it is not always easy for the authorities to react in real time as information procuring and filtering were ongoing, said the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.

Its director-general Andrew Herdman said that in hindsight, there were always ways upon which aspects of the MH370 investigation could have been improved.

However, he said that the authorities were in a situation where they either lacked real information or received a lot of iffy information.

"I think we need to be mindful of the fact that it is not easy to react in real time to that," he said when he was in town for the recent International Air Transport Association Ops Conference.

Herdman said that in the early stages of all accident investigations, things were very uncertain with all sorts of data being evaluated by investigators who were still unsure of what they were looking for.

He said that the loved ones of those on board the Malaysia Airlines flight and a global audience had the right to receive corroborated and confirmed information but noted there was not much of it available.

He pointed out that MH370 investigators had already done a lot of pathbreaking analyses with the limited data, resulting in search efforts now focused on the southern Indian Ocean where the plane was believed to have ended its flight.

Herdman said since updates were expected in daily press conferences, the authorities needed to weigh whether they should release information that they believed was right at the time only to be seen as speculative if proven wrong later on.

"It's very difficult not to undermine your own credibility but on the other hand, if you are cautious, it looks as if you're withholding information or being slow to release it," he said.

On the intense speculation surrounding the fate of the missing aircraft, Herdman said it was natural and even helpful if it served to narrow the search focus.

But he said that due to the limited information available, a variety of speculative scenarios, some of which had been widely covered in the media, "all fit the facts".

"That doesn't mean they are true. It just means that they haven't been eliminated," he said, adding that it was very hard to do this with so few data points and so little factual evidence.

He believed the Malaysian Government was doing the best it could and one of the key features evident in both search-and-rescue efforts and the accident investigation was how it had embraced and welcomed international engagement and expertise.

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