Sunday, March 16, 2014

L.A.M: The Day When 2 Australians Shut Down Singapore's Airspace for 50 Minutes

  On January 23, 2008 a very peculiar thing happened. Commercial airspace at one of the world's busiest airports was shut down for over 50 minutes. On that day, an aircraft without an approved flight plan entered Singapore's airspace. Immediately, the Republic of Singapore Air Force dispatched a pair of F-16D fighter jets to intercept the aircraft and escorted it to land at Singapore Changi Airport. Upon landing, airport police immediately surrounded the plane.

   "At 6.42pm (2142 AEDT), two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16 fighters were scrambled to intercept a civilian aircraft, a Cessna 208, which was heading towards Singapore airspace without an approved flight plan,'' the ministry's director of public affairs, Colonel Darius Lim, said in a statement. "The aircraft was escorted to land at Singapore Changi Airport."

  The above incident highlights the standard operating protocol an Air Force, Civil Aviation Authority and Local Police Force needs to follow in the event of an unidentified aircraft entering it's airspace without an approved flight plan.

  However amidst this hoo-ha, there was one small detail worth noting. The plane took off from Koh Samui, Thailand. And running the full length between Thailand and Singapore is the land mass of Peninsular Malaysia.

   In essence, this means that the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia and the Royal Malaysian Air Force had allowed an unknown aircraft to invade over 131 thousand square km of sovereign Malaysian territory and despite this occurring over a period of 3 hours, did not lift a finger to respond.

  This incident highlighted a huge security flaw in Malaysia's Air Defence umbrella. One that if it had patched during any of the subsequent 6 years that followed, would have prevented a bigger tragedy that came with greater embarrassment, scrutiny and loss.

  6 years later on 8 March 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpar International Airport for Beijing. It never landed at it's intended destination. Instead, less than an hour after take off, the transponder was turned off and 3 sets of military radars tracked the plane flying past Penang and across the breadth of Malaysia from the Gulf of Thailand towards the Indian Ocean.

  Unlike the Cessna airplane in the earlier example which was intercepted by the RSAF, 3 sets of people manning Malaysia's military radars never sounded any alarms. The RMAF never dispatched any fighter jets on standby and the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia never shut down Malaysian airspace when a rogue plane very much larger than a Cessna aircraft flew across it's airspace.

  Suffice to say, had the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia or the RMAF been doing their job properly as exemplified by the example given above, we would not have gone 9 days and counting into a search for a missing and possibly hijacked plane. 

  Investigators may have recently concluded that the plane had it's transponders deliberately turned off and it's flight plan deliberately altered but it is the greater observing public who have the biggest conclusion of all; that Malaysian leadership is sorely incompetent when it comes to handling a crisis. In this respect, Malaysia has much to learn from it's Southern neighbour. Had the supposed hijackers targeted a plane flying through a more efficient jurisdiction, the outcome would have been very different today.


Note: My heart, hopes and prayers are with the crew and passengers of MH370. I wish for a speedy and desirable conclusion to this incident and hope beyond all hope that Malaysian authorities will finally learn how to effectively handle crisis and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

To view a list of statistics on air crashes since the 1980s see:


Anonymous said...

Well, where are our AWACs aircraft, that is bought so that we have 24 hours coverage...

Well, what does our Minister has to say about this..or our expensive AWACs are also "sleeping."

John Lam said...

As far as I know,RMAF does not have any AWACs.

It was mentioned in the media a number of times but no firm orders were ever placed.

From my perspective, it appears that Malaysia's priority is to send an astronaut to space rather than develop aerial surveillance as in 2003, it committed to purchase 18 Su-30MKMs where as part of the contract, Russia sent the first Malaysian cosmonaut to the ISS.

Anonymous said...

So I wonder why is everybody scanning the seas? If this is a deliberate act then the plane would have landed somewhere - on land rather than in the sea.
I am just a layman and am asking a question that pops up in my mind.

Anonymous said...

referring the news that MH370 flew to Pakistan, well to reach Pakistan, MH370 need mid-air refueling from "South China Sea", the last known contact. Need cross Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysian n Indian airspace ... which means YOU are believing that these countries are dumb ass stupid that their militaries are dozing off n they couldn't detect an unidentified civilian Boeing with 239 souls on board... For God Sake, have some respect for yourself and accept you are just a keyboard warrior, baffle by Biased Media and Malaysian Corrupt Govts

John Lam said...

Have you heard of Occam's Razor? Occam's Razor postulates that when faced with multiple probable answers, the answer that is the most likely is the one that has the least amount of assumptions. For example if a sandwich in my fridge disappears, which is more likely? That someone in my house ate the sandwich or the government conspired against me to take away that sandwich from my fridge?

John Lam said...

Well, first of all there is still the possibility that MH370 crashed after it diverted. Secondly, based on information currently available, we have few clues on where the plane can be, hence searching the seas may be our only course of action until we find more clues

Anonymous said...

If only they had scrambled a fighter plane to intercept, even Thailand didn't send a fighter plane to check when it flew in Thai airspace. One thing M'sia has to do is to replace unproductive and ''tidak apa'' attitude people at the radar control. I am sorry to say this. If it were to be S'pore, it would not be like this. S'pore would definitely send a fighter jet to check. Maybe the result would be different than what we know now.

Anonymous said...

Hardware ada...Otak takda...welcome to UMNOland.....