Saturday, March 22, 2014

FAA, clueless to help, grateful it was neither an American flight that disappeared, nor that the disappearance took place near America

Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Torments Aviation Regulators More Than We're Being Told

Whenever a natural disaster, armed conflict, or a political crisis sparks anywhere around the world, the agencies of the United States federal government normally roll up rather swiftly, to lend their experience, to take charge, or to provide passive assistance. In the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, U.S. aviation officials can only stand down, because they appear to be as clueless as Malaysian aviation officials as to the lack of credible, concrete information about what happened aboard Flight MH370.

"The American investigators believe that the Malaysian government was reluctant to share information with them because they fear exposing their weak radar and satellite systems," The New York Times reported, noting that American aviation officials don't want any blowback directed their way, adding, in keeping with its Timesian tradition of parsing its analysis, "With few leads to go on, countries cooperating in the search have sometimes sniped at one another."

There's a bias in the media, or else just plain old lazy reporting, that nobody is asking why Boeing, the manufacturer of the missing aircraft, cannot explain or is not being asked to explain why the tracking systems failed on a plane believed to have continued its flight for several hours after last contact.

Flight MH370 disappeared two weeks ago while carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, but the large coalition of nations working on the search for the missing jet have been stymied in every way possible, because for days they were operating on assumptions that had no factual basis and were, consequently, conducting searches anywhere the latest fad theory would point. In this situation, the United States, an undisputed leader in aviation technology and surveillance, has declined to assert leadership, because it, too, is ignorant of what happened to Flight MH370. What would be the difference if the communication equipment aboard the jet of an American airline had been deactivated, or if the disappearance of a jet had taken place in one of the oceans thousands of miles off of the U.S. coastline instead of the Australian coastline ? Probably not much, and that's precisely why the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing are keeping a low profile right now, and that's exactly why the media can only speculate about what might have happened.

As it stands, what should be more worrisome is that the equipment aboard an American-manufactured Boeing 777 failed. What do American aviation regulators have to say about the integrity, safety, and reliability of tracking equipment aboard the jets manufactured by Boeing ? Nothing. Why all the silence ?

As often as Malaysian aviation officials have been criticized for failing to be transparent about their lack of information, so, too, should the F.A.A. be pressed to admit that it lacks the same information. When will the media ask how the F.A.A. would handle the search for Flight MH370 if American aviation officials had been in charge of this investigation ? When will focus shift from the scrutiny of Malaysia Airlines to Boeing ?

As the investigation turns to identifying criminal responsibility for the missing flight, will the U.S. government focus on the spectacular intelligence failure that appears to allow airplanes to remain vulnerable to criminality over a decade since the Sept. 11 attacks and susceptible to going missing almost five years since the 2009 accident that befell Air France Flight 447 over the Atlantic Ocean ?

For the U.S. government, which is caught up in a controversy over the indiscriminate dragnet surveillance by the National Security Administration, the blind spots in aviation safety patterns recent blind spots in foreign policy risks, such as the Russian takeover of Crimea. These blind spots are proof that real threats are not being assessed while the N.S.A. is wholly consumed with the distraction of dragnet surveillance -- a dangerous situation about which civil libertarians and journalists had warned would happen as a result of the Obama administrations's faulty obsession with collecting Internet data.

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