On March 8, 2014 the Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 disappeared over the Indian Ocean, and there has been no trace of it despite a massive search operation.
On June 9, the Coast Guard's Dornier Aircraft also went missing off Tamil Nadu coast, raising serious concerns, not relating to just the defence forces but also for Civil Aviation. How are the two interlinked? The MH370 victims' families from Tamil Nadu were not even contacted or taken care of by the country's Civil Aviation Authorities.
The recent appeal of Deepa Lakshmi, wife of flight deputy commander Subash Suresh who was on board the missing Dornier Aircraft, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi exposes the lack of concern and compassion on the part of Aviation officials. It is obvious that the system, both in Civil and Military aviation, lacks the human touch.
In the MH370 event, the Aircraft reportedly flew close to 200km from Port Blair before flying south. It was not discovered because there was no working radar in the Andamans during night. Thus, government claims about secure borders and high vigilance levels lie exposed.
In this context, I would like to highlight a report submitted by a former member of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council more than four years ago.
He reported that in case an Aircraft crashes into the sea, there was an agreement with the Coast Guard at Trivandrum. Chennai Airport does not have a facility to carry out search and rescue operation.Coast Guard also asked for 30 to 45 minutes advance notice during office hours and 60 to 90 minutes advance notice during non-working hours, he reported. This is unacceptable as the safety of passengers and their rescue in water depends on the speed of response.
Initial reports about the Dornier indicated that the ATC radar tracked it at 9,000ft, about 130km south of Chennai. There was a sudden drop of altitude of about 200ft before the Aircraft disappeared from the radar screen. A drop of 200ft is possible with a sudden loss of power on one engine, based on the levels of experience of the pilots. The question is: "Did they lose an engine or did the engine explode?" Reports of an explosion and fireball noticed by local fishermen add credibility to this theory . The Dornier Aircraft must be carrying satel lite communication equipment as they do fly at very low altitude over waters, to keep constant touch with the base station. The sudden stoppage of signals can be confirmed from Immersat and the Naval authorities must be aware of where the last signal came from. If the Aircraft was destroyed by an explosion, there will be debris close to that position. Our inability to mount a successful search and rescue operation, in notso-deep waters -stands exposed and it is for the government to address this on a war footing. Mere words won't help. Immediate proactive action is required to develop regional systems for search and rescue operations.
Eesha Rohida [ MBA Mktg ]
Aviation News Editor