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Old 8th Mar 2015, 14:58
  #11675 (permalink)  
Ian W
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Florida and wherever my laptop is
Posts: 1,327
Originally Posted by ETOPS View Post
I've just read all the ATC transcripts in the report.

The lack of action and confusion as the events unfolded would be comical if not so serious. All concerned appeared as "rabbits in the headlights" and thus laid down protocols went out of the window.

Why did the Vietnamese wait over 15 minutes before querying the Malaysians as to the location of MH370?

Why did ATC not declare an "uncertainty phase" as per their own laid down procedures?

Why was "aircraft overdue" not declared 30 minutes after the IGARI estimate?

When MAS ops failed to get a response to their ACARS messages what did they hear when they called the aircraft via Satfone? Was it ringing, busy or unavailable?

When they called again a few hours later what did they hear? And, by then, were the SAR team aware MAS ops were able to try to call the aircraft.

More questions than answers I'm afraid...
Yes why not blame the controllers for not responding immediately to a routine event as if it was an emergency.

All controllers have had aircraft handed to them that do not call. It is not a startling event, in some instances such as crossing from oceanic to en-route airspace it is relatively normal to get a delay. SSR responses drop out and return to the extent that many ATC computer systems 'coast' a pseudo response to show the controller where the aircraft should be if it continued on its previous vector (some even turn that coasting response at waypoints).

So it is 1am on a quiet weekend night and an aircraft handed off drops off your radar. Not your problem - you handed it off. The receiving controller gives it a bit then buzzes you and says hey MH370 has not called me, is he still with you? You call, (it's not your problem really) and no answer. No he's not with me. END. The aircraft was handed off and not in my airspace. Yes the controller could have alerted people but they would have said where is it - it's in Vietnamese airspace and they know about it - why are you telling me then?

All these hindsight ideas of how controllers _could_ have responded are just that. About as useful as comments on how pilots _could_ have responded.

I hope that what this incident leads to is a far more rigid approach to aircraft dropping out of surveillance contact. The only way that things would have been different is a full scale emergency response when surveillance is lost. But remember that this is such a routine occurrence that coasting is built into ATC system software, so it will need to be very carefully done. I suspect that ADS-C SATCOM and VDL2 (VHF Data Link) will be mandatory for commercial aircraft within 5 years with continual ADS-C SATCOM at a 4 minute update rate (that supports RNP-10). Then when ADS-C SATCOM from an airborne aircraft stops reporting a full scale emergency will be declared.

However, in MH370's case would that have helped? Only if the military primary radars had immediately started tracking the aircraft. But what then? They see the aircraft out into the Indian ocean going West. No-one has interceptors on alert that would be able to fly into the Indian Ocean. Then outside primary radar cover MH370 turns South. And from then on we are where we are now - but without the search of the South China Sea.
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