A web of bureaucratic requirements are preventing a fleet of aircraft from flying over Indonesian airspace to find missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, according to a report from the BBC.
Reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes visited Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, to find out why an apparently functional fleet of planes ready to fly over the Indian Ocean in search of the missing flight were grounded. Upon arriving, Hayes was told that Indonesia is refusing to allow Malaysia to fly over their territory, citing “international bureaucracy” that required Malaysia to file for special permissions in the area. Since the planes are of a military nature, they need special permissions to hit the skies, even in case of emergency.
Such bureaucracy grounded planes in Malaysia scheduled to fly over some of the areas where the plane had been suspected of flying over. The planes represented the multinational effort to find the missing flight; search planes from Japan, South Korea, and the United States were left unattended thanks to their inability to fly over the Indonesian island of Java. Watch video of Wingfield-Hayes’ BBC report here.
Time is of the essence in the search for the plane, as the black box’s battery only lasts 30 days, meaning the box will not be sending out radar signals after that and will become increasingly difficult to find. Additionally, should the plane have fallen in the ocean, it will continue to sink and decay over time, carried by currents that can put it nowhere near the already astronomically large search zone. ABC News reports that Malaysian authorities have narrowed their search to one of two corridors radar analysis has defined as the only areas which the plane could have gone towards–the southern corridor, a stretch of ocean near Australia.
The news of the search being limited to that corridor and not the northern one, which includes India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan, comes just as reports surface of witnesses. A newspaper in the Maldives, an island nation south of India, published a report Tuesday claiming that individuals had seen a “low flying jumbo jet” on the morning after the plane disappeared at 6 AM local time, the appropriate number of hours after the plane left Kuala Lumpur to place it near the Maldives.
Sources have also told the Telegraph that Malaysian authorities’ search of the pilot’s flight simulator found in his home uncovered that the pilot had practiced landing on five runways in the Indian Ocean, including one in the Maldives. Chinese news outlet Xinhua also reports today that there is evidence of Thai officials seeing a plane on their radar that sufficiently resembles Flight 370 flying near their country on the night of its disappearance, adding more speculation that a search off the coasts of Australia is ill-founded.
The question of the pilot’s role in the disappearance has been a pivotal one in the search for clues. Malaysian authorities retracted a report last night that claimed the pilot had made his last contact with air traffic control after the plane’s communications systems had shut down, widening the search for a suspect. The pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is an experienced pilot with ties to Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, leading many to question whether the plane’s disappearance was a political act. Anwar, who is loosely related to Zaharie, has called the allegations “disgusting.”
The lack of new information has triggered serious accusations of incompetence from China, whose officials have called Malaysian government investigations “inexperienced and lacking the capacity” to fly the plane. Chinese media outlets have been so incensed with the search that a column in Xinhua today lauded the United States for sharing sensitive radar information with France to search for a missing plane while condemning Malaysia for its secrecy. Most of the passengers on Flight 370 are Chinese nationals, and the plane was en route to Beijing when it disappeared.
Xinhua reports that while Malaysia has yet to ask the Maldives for help in the investigation, they have incorporated the government of nearby Sri Lanka into the search.