MH370 probe reveals sleeping ATC controller when call was made

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Kuala Lumpur, March 9:  A report of the probe into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that went missing last year revealed that the assigned air traffic controller (ATC) on the day of the incident was asleep when a call was made some four hours after the aircraft went missing.

This information is in the nearly 600-page report compiled by a 19-man team investigating the mystery of the missing plane, the Malaysian Star reported on Monday.

MH370: ATC controller was sleeping

Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.

The plane is believed to have ended its journey in the southern Indian Ocean.

The team suggested that the supervising controller at the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre (KLATCC) was asleep when a call was made four hours after MH370 disappeared.

In the transcript released on Sunday, a presumably senior Malaysia Airlines staffer at MAS Operations asked the KLATCC controller if there was a positive handover by MH370 to Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control.

The controller had started the four-minute-long conversation with MAS at 5.20 a.m., where the MAS officer repeatedly pressed the controller for details, especially whether there was any positive handover between KLATCC and Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control.

The controller replied he only took over tower operations after 3 a.m., and was not sure about the details.

The MAS worker's continual request for information led the controller to say that he would wake up his supervisor.

Investigators also found that the battery of the flight data recorder's underwater locator beacon expired in December 2012, well over a year before the plane vanished.

"The Engineering Maintenance System (EMS), a computer system used to track and call out maintenance, was not updated correctly when the Flight Data Recorder was replaced on February 29, 2008," investigators said.

An update would normally involve the removal of the old unit followed by the installation of the new unit. However in this instance, while the removal of the old unit was recorded in the EMS, the installation was not.

"Since the EMS was not updated, it did not trigger the removal of the flight data recorder for replacement of the underwater locator beacon battery when it was due," they said, adding that the battery of the cockpit voice recorder's underwater locator beacon was replaced.

ATC controller replied he only took over tower operations after 3 am

In April 2014, Chinese and Australian search vessels picked up some pings over the search area, but the signals then faded away.

The pings were later deemed unlikely to be from the flight data recorder.

Investigators also confirmed that 221 kg of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries carried in the aircraft did not pass through security checks.

The batteries, from Motorola Solutions Penang, were assembled and packed in Bayan Lepas on March 7 before being transported by truck to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The shipment "did not go through security screening" in Penang but was physically inspected by MASKargo personnel and was cleared by Customs before being sealed and allowed to leave the Penang Cargo Complex.

Nonetheless, the battery shipment had adhered to packaging guidelines under the International Civil Aviation Organisation Technical Instructions for Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, and the 55th Edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR)

The batteries were part of a 2,453-kg consignment also containing walkie-talkie accessories and chargers.

IANS

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