More than a wing part has surfaced in the MH370 saga overnight.
French criminal prosecutors put pressure yesterday on Malaysia’s government to tell the full truth about the disappearance of the Boeing 777 and the 239 people on it.
Najib Razak, the Malaysian Prime Minister who misled to the world about the search priorities from day one, and who is under fire over the alleged improper handling of millions of dollars of public investment funds, then made an incongruous promise to do everything to bring out the truth about MH370.
And the deputy public prosecutor in Paris, Serge Mackowiak, slipped into his briefing on the wing flaperon found on La Reunion, a reference to an ASAP forensic examination of a sealed part of a suitcase recovered from the Indian Ocean island which is near Mauritius.
This must be more than troubling in Kuala Lumpur, since in French law the public prosecutors don’t have to be diplomatic to anyone nor follow the protocols of formal air accident investigations.
They may, as the Marseille public prosecutor did in March concerning Germanwings, let it all hang out when it comes to telling the truth as it comes out, in that case revealing that the cockpit sound recorder showed the co-pilot had committed suicide and murdered the other 149 people on board by flying the jet at high speed into the base of a mountain in the southern French alps.
What the Malaysia authorities faced this morning, when PM Najib Razak, spoke to an almost empty room at 1.57 am Kuala Lumpur time, is loss of control over the narrative, and that’s a narrative flawed by outright lies and evasions from the government of Malaysia and its civil aviation authority.
Najib Razak may have been guided by a PR strategy to appear to remain in control of events by being first to announce that the recovered flaperon was not just a part unique to all Boeing 777s, but specifically linkable to the 777 that flew MH370.
As it turned out some 20 minutes later, the deputy public prosecutor in Paris wasn’t absolutely convinced that it was from MH370, quoting extensively from the ultra cautious ‘strong presumptions that it was’ from the investigation team assembled in a laboratory in Toulouse.
M Mackowiak said more tests would be done today, teasing out the existence of part of a suitcase en passant.
Malaysia had insisted that the early search for MH370 be extended further into the South China Sea and even as far as Kazakhstan when according to later revelations by the then acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein it knew from day one that the jet had abruptly changed course over the Gulf of Thailand shortly after its identifying transponder fell silent, rendering it invisible to normal air traffic control systems.
That deliberate deceit had the effect of diluting the search effort where it mattered, in the south Indian Ocean.
The flight, Malaysia Airlines’ red eye from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, had 239 people on board. An analysis of signals generated by two unanswered calls to the cockpit sat phone, and standby pings from an automated engine monitoring system, determined that the jet eventually turned south and flew toward the southern Indian Ocean until its fuel ran out about seven hours 39 minutes after it took off.
At that moment, when the Inmarsat satellite heard the 777 sending a ready-to-talk sequence to the Rolls-Royce engine support centre in Derby, it suddenly cut out.
The satellite had to be about 44 degrees above the horizon as seen from MH370 at that point. But that point isn’t identified by the signal, instead it yields an arc of the possible locations of the jet conforming to such an elevation which is a function of the time stamped interval taken by those ‘pings’ to travel between the jet and the satellite.
Wherever the jet is in the pitch black depths of the southern Indian Ocean, the last signal it send while it was flying was to a satellite nearly half way up from the horizon to the zenith.
The Malaysian authorities are going to have to defend, at some stage, possibly at a time chosen for them by the French, their conduct on the night and morning of the disappearance of MH370.
No high profile airline in modern times is known to have been as indifferent to the loss of a jet in the middle of the night than Malaysia Airlines. It has never been called to official account for its failure to hit the phones to every kampong, every resort, every police station and every one of the dozens if not hundreds of ships likely to have been overflown by Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, seeking information, sightings, anything.
The posturing of PM Najib Razak will be on trial in France, and the lies, evasions and inconsistencies in the official narrative will be under arguably as much pressure as is the integrity of its government over the public investment funds scandal that has concurrently broken out in Kuala Lumpur.