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Flight 370 search: Malaysia PM admits mistakes made when plane went missing

The prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Rajak, took to a leading American newspaper to talk about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, an aircraft that went missing on March 8 and since has eluded all efforts at detection and recovery. In the piece, he admitted that "mistakes were made" early on and that the ongoing search for the plane would not be easy, finding it would not come soon.

"Nobody saw this coming, nobody knows why it happened, and nobody knows precisely where it is," Najib wrote in May 13's Wall Street Journal.

The Prime Minister, taking on the critics of his nation's response to what is now believed to be a tragedy, went on to say that the Malaysian government "did not get everything right," that officials and investigators were "so focused on trying to find the aircraft that we did not prioritise our communications.”

That lack of prioritization would lead to a four-hour delay in mounting a search and rescue response to the missing plane. Furthermore, a delay in the Malaysia military's reporting of detecting an airplane fitting the missing Boeing 777 off the west coast of Malaysia (far to the west of where it was thought to have vanished over the South China Sea) led to valuable time and resources being targeted for the waters between Malaysia and Southeast Asia. It is now known that from the Strait of Malacca (between Sumatra and Malaysia), Flight MH370 made a U-turn and took a southerly heading, ending up over the southern Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia.

Still, the Prime Minister says he believes his nation did all it could given the confusing nature of the incident.

“In the passage of time," he wrote, "I believe Malaysia will be credited for doing its best under near-impossible circumstances. It is no small feat for a country the size of ours to overcome diplomatic and military sensitivities and bring 26 different countries together to conduct one of the world’s largest peacetime search operations.”

While saying he did not believe quicker and more decisive responses would have ultimately changed events, he did called for a full investigation into the delays and communications failures.

At the same time, he called for the international community to adopt and implement real-time tracking technology for airplanes. He also recommended that planes be outfitted with black boxes that have transceivers that emit signals for longer than 30 days, the length of time for which the batteries of the locators currently are outfitted. He backed the European Union's recommendation that the locators have battery lives of at least twice as long and optimally as long as 90 days.

Another recommendation from Najib: Constructing communications systems and location transponders aboard aircraft to ensure they cannot be disabled midflight. It is believed that there was a catastrophic electrical failure that knocked out communications or something occurred -- possibly human initiated -- aboard Flight MH370 that caused the communications system to cease functioning. (It is the altered course coupled with the sudden communications blackout from the missing plane that lended itself to various conspiracy theories concerning hijackings and/or acts of piracy, not to mention more fanciful scenarios concerning the plane's disappearance.)

“We will also continue facilitating the independent investigation so we can learn from any mistakes," the Malaysian Prime Minister promised, noting that his country had already implementing tougher security measures and was working toward increasing airline safety.

At present, the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 is primarily underwater. The Australia-led Joint Agency Coordination Centre has deployed search and rescue vessels to the area of the Indian Ocean where electronic pings were detected in early April. The pings, two sets of two, are believed to be the last of the signals from the black boxes of Flight 370.

Some are now working under the assumption that the second pair of pings could not have emanated from the aircraft's black boxes. Still, it is believed that the first two pings were likely signals from the missing airplane.

To date, however, not a trace of the Boeing 777 or its 239 passengers and crew has been found.

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