Event ReportsPublished on May 03, 2014
Talking on "Mystery of the missing MH-370" at ORF Chennai, former Airports Authority of India chairman and Air Vice Marshal H.M. Shahul argued the possibility of an electrical fire and the helplessness of the cabin crew in such a case.
MH-370 mystery: 'Nothing is isolated in aviation', says former AAI chairman
"After eight weeks of the world's united efforts and desperate scavenging for clues, nothing is clear to anybody on what really happened to Malaysia's MH-370 airliner that went off the radars. But what one must remember at this point is that nothing is isolated in aviation", said Air Vice-Marshal H M Shahul (retd).

Initiating a discussion on the "Mystery of the missing MH-370" at Observer Research Foundation Chennai Chapter on May 3, AVM Shahul, a former Chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), noted with regret as to how the case of MH-370 is a mix of unprecedented circumstances and planned, targeted, malicious human function.

AVM Shahul's five-pronged approach to the subject took the audience through a holistic journey which made them understand the indubitably advanced technology system which stands in place today that makes it impossible for an airport to lose touch with an aircraft, let alone a flight to go missing. He introduced the topic with a quick history of the A-330 aircraft, its structure and its ability to sustain any kind of emergency and land even on water without imploding or leaving any kind of debris. This explanation of his also went on to answer the several questions on debris, sourcing and comparisons.

At the second and third levels, the speaker looked at the airspace, the geopolitics of the areas around which this incident took place and its significance. Fourthly, he introduced the case studies of two pilots who attempted to theorise the incident and that he feels that the international community ought to learn from this incident.

Vetoing conspiracy theories

Through his eloquent initial exposition which set the technical context for the talk, AVM Shahul attempted to explain how several of possibilities could be trimmed out, given the safeguards existing in the current technology and how the reports which position the aircraft around 1000 miles away from Perth are the most crucial to analyse. After quickly dismissing popularly- discussed theories like that of an American conspiracy, Chinese covert operations, etc, he went on to explain further about components like the ACAR, data recorder, cockpit voice recorder, primary radar, secondary radar etc. which he believed held a lot of relevance in enabling one understand the incident better.

Quoting the case-studies of the two pilots and in the light of the recent Malaysian government report on how non-technical causes might have led to the incident, making the plane's diversion, a criminal activity, AVM Shahul went to on to add new dimensions and possibilities which made the waters seem much murkier than before. As postulated by the second case-study, he argued the possibility of an electrical fire and the helplessness of the cabin crew in such a case and how with the theories on it being the consequence of a pilot being suicidal, it would be erroneous assumption to make.

The speaker's identification of Australia as a seemingly irrelevant stake-holder that continues to play a pivotal role with the search operations and invest heavily in the same highlighted how suspicious these Samaritan gestures have become. He emphasised on how it's crucial to include every single stake-holder involved while theorising on possibilities.

The session concluded with several pertinent questions from the floor. A noticeable one related to the first trajectory deviation of the aircraft at Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam had remained surprisingly quiet about the issue weeks since the search commenced. Future prospects of a black box with a GPS locater was also proposed.

On the note that the international community shall unite to untangle the web of paradoxes and clear out of the murky waters, the discussion ended with a tinge of optimism and hope, contrary to the dreary mood which we find the world in today, two months since MH-370 went missing.

(This report is prepared by Shreya Murali, III Year B.A., Christ University, Bangalore)
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