The air traffic control supervisor was asleep on duty during the crucial hours following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 last year, an interim report into the tragedy has said.
Released a year after the Boeing 777-200 went missing, transcripts of conversation between Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Controller and a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) official have showed that between 1.20 am local time — when communications from the flight had ceased — and 5.20 am, the supervisor was asleep.
A controller started the four-minute-long conversation with the MAS official at 5.20am when he repeatedly pressed the former for details, especially whether there was any positive handover between Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre and Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control.
The MAS official’s persistent request for information led the controller to say that he would wake his supervisor up.
The controller replied he only took over tower operations after 3am, and was not sure about the details, Star Online reported.
“I (would) wake up my supervisor and ask him to check again, to go to the room and check what the last contact (was) …” the controller said.
The report said air traffic controllers in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control took 20 minutes to ask why the plane had not yet entered its airspace when international protocols demand this should take place within two minutes.
The report has also found that the battery powering the underwater locator beacon on the aircraft had expired in 2012.
The nearly 600-page interim report submitted yesterday on the anniversary of the flight’s disappearance, however, does not cast any suspicion on the crew.
Termed an “oversight” by investigators, the battery expiry could be key in legal action against Malaysia Airlines and in determining compensation, the paper said.
Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 last year while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board. There were five Indians on the flight.
The plane is believed to have ended its journey in the southern Indian Ocean.
A year-long, Australia-led search effort in the southern Indian Ocean where the aircraft is believed to have crashed has so far yielded no sign of the plane.
Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) on January 29 had declared the plane’s disappearance an accident.