Hisham defends four-hour gap 'response' time, saying Malaysia has nothing to hide

A photo taken on April 5, 2014 and released on April 11 by Australian Defence shows Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Marc Chandler holding lookout onboard HMAS Success whilst deployed in search of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.

KUALA LUMPUR - It is up to the independent panel formed to decide if the four-hour gap between the plane's disappearance and the authorities' response was too much wasted time.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, in defending the gap, compared it to the seven-hour gap during the Air France incident.

"Each case is different. In this case, we took four hours to respond to the disappearance.

"I was informed that in the Air France case, it was six to seven hours before any response.

"We leave it to the independent panel to judge the four-hour gap," he said at a press conference here on Friday .

Authorities had come under fire from some quarters for the four-hour gap, with many claiming it was too long a time.

Hishammuddin insisted Malaysia has "nothing to hide" and that the issue of whether the time was reasonable should be left to the experts to decide.

On a question of the preliminary report on MH370 being five pages while the Air France incident rendered a report approximately 200 pages, Hishammuddin said this was because the latter incident had more information to report.

"We based our report on every information we have that does not jeopardise the ongoing investigation.

"In the Air France incident, they had already found debris, which confirmed the plane had crashed, so they have additional information to report," he said.

He noted that the preliminary report had excluded information that was found to be untrue, such as claims of sighted debris and that the plane has landed safely in Nanning, China.

At the same press conference, the Civil Aviation Department said the independent panel could decide on the 17-minute gap between the plane's last connection with the KL air traffic control centre and the call from Ho Chi Minh saying there was no contact established with the plane.

"We directed the pilots to change frequency to connect with Ho Chi Minh when we handed them over after they got in touch at Igari.

"What happened at the point of transfer and why had 17 minutes passed before any alert, is up to the investigative team to decide," said DCA director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.

Asked if Malaysia Airlines was considering lengthening battery life for its black boxes, its chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahaya said the current ones were up to international standard.

"We are working to strengthen our mode of tracking planes to ensure such incidents do not happen again."

Ahmad Jauhari also said compensation would be given to families soon, but refused to disclose the amount to the press first.

Hishammuddin added that Australia was already prepared to receive families and next of kin in the country in case it becomes necessary to fly them over.