MAS confirms 38 Malaysian passengers were on board MH370

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) confirmed that 38 of the 239 people on board its missing Flight MH370 on March 8 were Malaysians.

There was confusion as to the number of Malaysians on the flight because the seating position of the passengers released in the preliminary report into the missing plane had indicated that there were fewer than 38 Malaysian passengers onboard the ill-fated flight.

MAS said in a statement that the names of the 38 Malaysian passengers had been earlier shared in the Passenger Manifest, which was previously made public.

On the exchange of signals between the ground and the aircraft soon after Ho Chi Minh Air Traffic Control advised that radio contact had not been established with MH370, MAS clarified that what was referred to as signals was actually the aircraft displayed on the 'Flight Following System' screen.

"This was based on the aircraft projection at that point of time and not the actual aircraft position," said MAS, adding that this information was carried in the MH370 Preliminary Report that was released on Friday.

The statement said when Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre (KL-ATCC) Watch Supervisor queried Malaysia Airlines OPS (Operations) on the status of MH370, MAS OPS informed the latter that MH370 was still sighted over Cambodian airspace in the Flight-Following System, which is based on a flight-projection.

It said the word "Cambodia" was displayed by the Flight-Following System on the screen when zoomed-in, leading Malaysia Airlines to deduce that the aircraft was flying in Cambodian airspace.

The Flight-Following System did not display the name "Vietnam", even though the aircraft was over Vietnam airspace, the statement said.

According to the statement, the responsibility of aircraft tracking monitoring resides with Air Traffic Control Centres.

"For airlines, it is normal to engage flight following systems to assist its pilots to manage in weather conditions or route diversions. Such airline flight following systems are non-primary and non-positive controlling.

"Flight following systems also do not trigger airlines of any abnormality. Such situations have to be pilot initiated.

"Unless otherwise, airlines' operations control centres would continue to see the aircraft as flying on its normal route, based on projected or predicted positions and locations," it said.

The statement said to make the flight-following systems work successfully and effectively, it was important to have visual depiction of the aircraft's position, coupled with confirmation by air-to-ground communications, such as through Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) or Satcomm or VHF or HF.

"In the case of tracking MH370, MAS' flight-following system indicated that the aircraft was flying, however, there was no communication from or with the pilot.

"MAS OPS attempted to communicate with MH370 after we were flagged by KL-ATCC, but was never able to make contact," the statement said.