Flight MH370: Paying The Price Of 6 Decades Of Nepotism, Racism, Rampant Corruption And Incompetence
On January 23, 2008 a very peculiar thing happened. Commercial airspace at one of the world’s busiest airports was shut down for over 50 minutes. On that day, an aircraft without an approved flight plan entered Singapore’s airspace. Immediately, the Republic of Singapore Air Force dispatched a pair of F-16D fighter jets to intercept the aircraft and escorted it to land at Singapore Changi Airport. Upon landing, airport police immediately surrounded the plane.
“At 6.42pm (2142 AEDT), two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16 fighters were scrambled to intercept a civilian aircraft, a Cessna 208, which was heading towards Singapore airspace without an approved flight plan,” the ministry’s director of public affairs, Colonel Darius Lim, said in a statement. “The aircraft was escorted to land at Singapore Changi Airport.”
The above incident highlights the standard operating protocol an Air Force, Civil Aviation Authority and Local Police Force needs to follow in the event of an unidentified aircraft entering it’s airspace without an approved flight plan.
However amidst this hoo-ha, there was one small detail worth noting. The plane took off from Koh Samui, Thailand. And running the full length between Thailand and Singapore is the land mass of Peninsular Malaysia.
In essence, this means that the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia and the Royal Malaysian Air Force had allowed an unknown aircraft to invade over 131 thousand square km of sovereign Malaysian territory and despite this occurring over a period of 3 hours, did not lift a finger to respond.
This incident highlighted a huge security flaw in Malaysia’s Air Defence umbrella. One that if it had patched during any of the subsequent 6 years that followed, would have prevented a bigger tragedy that came with greater embarrassment, scrutiny and loss.
6 years later on 8 March 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing. It never landed at its intended destination. Instead, less than an hour after take-off, the transponder was turned off and 3 sets of military radars tracked the plane flying past Penang and across the breadth of Malaysia from the Gulf of Thailand towards the Indian Ocean.
Unlike the Cessna airplane in the earlier example which was intercepted by the RSAF, 3 sets of people manning Malaysia’s military radars never sounded any alarms. The RMAF never dispatched any fighter jets on standby and the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia never shut down Malaysian airspace when a rogue plane very much larger than a Cessna aircraft flew across it’s airspace.
Suffice to say, had the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia or the RMAF been doing their job properly as exemplified by the example given above, we would not have gone 9 days and counting into a search for a missing and possibly hijacked plane.
Investigators may have recently concluded that the plane had its transponders deliberately turned off and its flight plan deliberately altered but it is the greater observing public who have the biggest conclusion of all; that Malaysian leadership is sorely incompetent when it comes to handling a crisis. In this respect, Malaysia has much to learn from its Southern neighbour. Had the supposed hijackers targeted a plane flying through a more efficient jurisdiction, the outcome would have been very different today.