Vietnam’s aviation authorities have denied allegations that its air traffic controllers were slow in contacting their Malaysian counterparts when they failed to receive any signal from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the time it vanished almost two months ago, a Vietnamese newspaper said.
“Vietnam could not be blamed for defying aviation protocol in contacting flight MH370,” Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), told Tuoi Tre newspaper.
The denial followed accusations by Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman that Vietnamese air traffic controllers had breached protocol by only enquiring about the missing aircraft 17 minutes after it had vanished from the radar on March 8.
Azharuddin had said that at 1.19am on March 8, Kuala Lumpur air traffic control had ordered the Beijing-bound MH370 to change frequency to their Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) counterparts, but the Vietnamese side only responded at 1.38am and said that they had not been contacted by the Boeing 777.
“If Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t contacted by the aircraft, the protocol is five minutes,” he had said in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
A preliminary report released by Malaysian authorities had stated that the plane disappeared from the radar at 1.21am.
Azharuddin had also said that the Vietnamese air traffic controllers should be held responsible for the missing plane, as MH370 had passed the Igari navigational waypoint in the East Vietnam Sea into the Ho Chi Minh flight information region (FIR).
Commenting on this, Thanh told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that both the air traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur and HCMC were unable to determine whether MH370 had entered the Ho Chi Minh FIR or not at the time.
“Air traffic controllers from both sides lost signal of the flight on radar and it was likely that the pilot had changed direction right at the moment it was ordered to change frequency to the Ho Chi Minh FIR,” he said.
The CAAV had requested for a copy of the preliminary report on the disappearance of flight MH370.
It also demanded that the DCA verify the allegations made by Azharuddin against Vietnamese air traffic controllers.
Flight MH370 was carrying 239 people when it disappeared and despite a massive international hunt that is currently focused in the southern Indian Ocean, there had been no trace of the plane. – May 7, 2014.