Milling Over Malaysia Airlines Flight 370


Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner said the past is never over, it’s not even past. And so it goes with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There is no sign of the aircraft, yet the emotional and financial pieces of the wreckage are piling up. When and if searchers find the Boeing 777 that’s been missing since March 8, it will only add to the existing wreckage.

Let’s consider the money. No government or airline is prepared to say “the buck stops here.” Instead, they’re starting to ask “whose buck?” How will search costs be divvied up?

Malaysia thinks Australia should cover half the costs. Not so, says Australia. The flight came out of the blue, deviated off course by some mysterious force and was last vectored in Australia’s airspace.

Last week, officials from the two countries discussed costs of the ongoing search, which they believe will amount to tens of millions of dollars.

“I don’t want to give any indication as to where (the costs) are likely to end up,” an Australian official told The Associated Press. “We are talking about this with the Malaysians and other countries who have got a key interest.”

Under the UN Convention on International Civil Aviation, Australia has search and rescue responsibility because the aircraft is likely in its zone. But Australia says its “obligations are murky because of the unprecedented nature of the plane’s disappearance.”

Assuming a search continues into next summer, Australia predicts they alone will spend $84 million. The next phase of the sonar search has been narrowed down to 22,000 square miles of deep ocean floor.

They want other countries to pony up. Everyone knows that no one knows when and where the jet will be found, or even who might get to decide the search is over. Everything about the crash is wildly speculative.

Up to now Malaysia, Australia, the United States, China, Japan, Britain, South Korea and New Zealand have all searched and covered their own expenses.

It’s assumed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 made a left turn without signaling, even dismantled its blinker and then ran out the jet fuel. The plane departed Kuala Lumpur for a six-hour flight to Beijing with 239 people aboard. Not even so much as a collect call to someone’s dad.

And so the emotional wreckage continues. For those who lost loved ones, there must be some broken hearts, hoping passengers are alive on some distant Gilligan’s Island. Wouldn’t you still be hoping?

Malaysia is offering $50,000 in advance insurance payments to families of those aboard the plane. Six Malaysian and one Chinese family have cashed the check, according to AP, but most are rejecting it (probably on council from a frenzied shark pool of attorneys). Holding out for more, much more.

A spokesperson for relatives of 127 Chinese passengers said “唔係” (no). They reject preliminary compensation but think Malaysia Airlines should pay economic assistance that is not part of a final settlement while the search continues.

“Once you can issue a convincing report that announces that all the people on the plane have died, then fine, we will move into the compensation phase,” the passengers’ spokesperson told AP.

Last week, Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said full payout would be made after the plane is either found or officially declared lost.

The Tarmac’s View:  When Air France Flight 447 crashed off the coast of Brazil in 2009 killing 228 people, Airbus paid for most of the underwater search and recovery efforts. So where is Boeing in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? It seems to me it might be a fugue of evaded responsibilities.


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