MH370 mystery casts longer shadow

A Boeing 777 Malaysian Airlines plane.


WHAT is particularly unsettling about recent MH370 revelations is the cold, systematic calculation of the perpetrators behind the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane.

From the last "good night" from the cockpit that was heard by trackers, someone acting alone or with others deliberately tried to make the plane vanish electronically in every way possible. This has contributed to the unprecedented difficulty of finding the aircraft 10 days later.

In a world awash with sophisticated tracking and communication tools, including ubiquitous and adept mass-market gadgets, it's the utter radio silence that is altogether chilling.

Wherever it is now, MH370 - which had sufficient fuel for no more than eight hours - made satellite contact six times after communication with air traffic control was disabled by a human hand. Still, this is not enough to give a fix on the plane's location.

With each passing day, that task grows in importance, not just for the traumatised families of the passengers and crew, but also for air travellers everywhere who want clearer answers to the awful possibilities that have been thrown up. There should be no such mystery associated with air travel.

Whatever the conclusion to this case, civil aviation security worldwide is in for another shake-up. It remains to be seen on what scale that could be. Certainly, there appears to be room for improvement judging from reports of the widespread use of stolen or lost passports and lax clearance processes.

The travelling public may have to adjust to screening routines that are more secure and must play a bigger part in safeguarding their own travel documents.

The search for the plane, which now brings together the resources of some two dozen nations, will require an extraordinary degree of willingness to share militarily sensitive radar and satellite data.

The Malaysian government's decision to override national security concerns by making available to foreign investigators its military radar data on the plane sets an example which China, India and Central Asian countries ought to respond to.

The possible paths, which the Malaysian authorities believe the plane could have deviated to, cover sensitive areas bristling with military installations and sophisticated tracking capabilities.

China could temper its criticism of Malaysian handling of the investigation by sharing tracking data covering its western region bordering on Kazakhstan.

Two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese nationals. China would want to exclude any connection the incident may have with Xinjiang or Tibetan disaffection. For the sake of the families of passengers, all should join hands as the difficult search continues.

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Retracing flight MH370