Skip to main content

Dynamics of an aviation investigation

MH370 has been missing for 3 weeks.

During conversations relating to aviation incidents (in general), I realized many people don't understand the dynamics of such investigations. (that is to say, who pays the heavy price of the losses, who blames who, etc.). I'm no expert on aviation, but somehow I picked some insights on related matters, during my creative-research for my writings.

Here is my view, on how such aviation incidents typically play out (views are in general, and not specific to MH370):

  • The first one to face the heat are the local authorities.
  • The authorities then begin to scrutinize the carrier, for safety and compliance matters.
  • The carrier then shifts the blame on the manufacturer, for technical matters.
  • The manufacturer then blames on pilot-error, negligence, foul-play - leading to a criminal investigation.
  • A criminal investigation * if proven - ensures the authorities, carrier, and manufacturer emerge unscathed from the entire episode. This is an important point to note.

* In the above sequence, the black-box, radar trace, eye-witness accounts, and wreckage typically leads the investigators towards a conclusive outcome.

Now lets talk about MH370. As such, it is already a very sad and unfortunate incident for MH370 missing without a trace. In the words of Australian PM, "..it has been a gut-wrenching business for so many people" directly or indirectly affected by the incident. In the absence of any credible leads, the search is dragging on miserably, and expanding beyond south-east-asia.

The longer the search drags on:

  • the more it will thrust the carrier & its local authorities in the global spotlight - a stage they are not proven to handle in the most competent manner for crisis management. Public opinion will turn increasingly judgmental as mistakes are made, and transparency & timeliness of information will be tested. 
  • the expanding nature of search will also test the degree of international-cooperation among countries, particularly in South China Sea - an area notorious for it's highly contested claims on disputed territories.
  • more gaps will become apparent in regional air-defenses, with questions emerging on how an unmarked blip on radar could go undetected, and without any response.