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Missing Flight 370 Raises Need for Closer Cooperation

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Malaysia Airlines
The disappearance of MH370 while on a routine flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur March 8 has baffled authorities as contact was lost less than an hour into the trip and with no distress signal. Photographer: Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg

June 4 (Bloomberg) -- Flight 370, which vanished almost three months ago, showcases the need for nations to collaborate more on sharing information about aviation, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said.

Countries already share information about ships to prevent piracy and hijacking, Ng said in an interview yesterday.

“Is there capacity for collaboration? I think certainly very much so,” he said. “Obviously, civilian authorities and regulatory agencies are asking very sensible questions why is it in this day and age do we need gaps about where planes are. For goodness sake, we know where people are. So it’s not an issue of cost and that’s something that needs to be addressed.”

The disappearance of MH370 while on a routine flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur March 8 has baffled authorities as contact was lost less than an hour into the trip and with no distress signal. After the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. plane dropped off civilian radars, the country’s military detected an unidentified radar target headed west across the country.

A proposal with options to allow better aircraft tracking will be drafted by September by the International Air Transport Association, the group said in an e-mailed release today.

IATA, which represents 240 airlines, is working on the issue with the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization, it said in the release issued from IATA’s annual meeting in Doha.

‘Friendly’ Aircraft

On the day the Boeing Co. 777-200 aircraft vanished, air-traffic controllers and Malaysian Air struggled for hours to understand what was happening even as the military watched the plane appear to reverse course. The initial confusion was disclosed in Malaysian government documents released last month as part of the preliminary investigation into the world’s longest search for a missing plane in modern aviation history.

Malaysian and Vietnamese controllers traded phone calls and relayed a tip from the airline that the jet may have gone to Cambodia, while the military detected an unidentified target, the papers show.

The aircraft was categorized as “friendly” by the radar operator and therefore no further action was taken at the time, the country’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a statement. Hishammuddin was informed of the tracking about nine hours after civilian officials lost contact.

Stepping Forward

After Vietnam air traffic controllers reported failing to reach Flight 370 on many frequencies, Malaysian controllers began querying authorities in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore, according to documents.

“Malaysians didn’t request for help, we just stepped forward,” Ng said.

Singapore dispatched its C130 Hercules aircraft to the search area to look for debris after talking with the Malaysian defense minister, Ng said. A submarine rescue vessel with a submersible sonar tracking device was also sent to help with the hunt in the Gulf of Thailand, he said.

Investigators have concluded that the plane flew south toward Australia and crashed in the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel. After finding no evidence so far, authorities have decided to take a pause in the search to map the seabed. Australia’s government has issued a new tender seeking private companies for the search.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected to change a word in the minister’s quote in third paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyunghee Park in Singapore at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at Linus Chua

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