Air safety investigator rejects MH370 staff claims.

April 19, 2017

Australian air safety investigators have rejected a newspaper claim  “draconian legislation’’ was invoked in a decision to refuse a freedom of information request for material on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The Australian newspaper claimed the Australian Transport Safety Bureau had warned that employees who provided the information to the public or a court could face two years in jail.

But the ATSB said it issued no such warning.

“The Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) applies to ATSB investigations and reports, requiring investigators to protect evidence from disclosure other than in accordance with performing their functions under the Act,’’ the air safety investigator said in a statement in its “correcting the record” section.

“Consistent with international standards, the ATSB does not publish all the documents forming part of the investigation or report. This is to ensure cooperation and the future free flow of information to safety investigations.”

The newspaper has been attempting to use freedom of Information laws to get hold of the opinions international experts, including from the US and UK air crash agencies, Boeing, aerospace group Thales, and British satellite group Inmarsat, about satellite data used to track the course of the aircraft.

It says it was initially told the information could not be released because it “could cause damage to international relations of the commonwealth’’.  A subsequent review by ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood cited the TSI Act.

The ATSB used the satellite data and other evidence to conclude the plane was most likely uncontrolled when it crashed into the sea.  This runs counter to a theory frequently run by The Australian that the flight ended in a controlled ditching.

The bureau also questioned a suggestion in the April 17 article that some officers were having second thoughts about its end-of-flight scenario.

“The ATSB is not aware of any officers who have concerns with the ATSB’s reported findings in this regard,’’ it said, noting the claim was made without any supporting evidence.

“The ATSB’s work in the search for MH370 has always been characterised by a willingness to listen to new ideas, and to apply all the known facts to lead the underwater search.

“The ATSB does not make any statement lightly, nor does it approach any issue with pre-conceived conclusions.’’