The current news regarding the search for MH 370, reminds me of my golf game.
When I hit a drive and it heads into the rough, I know exactly where I’m going to look for it, not so much because I know it’s there, but rather because that’s where I want it to be. So, I head towards the short rough immediately adjacent to the fairway. I persuade myself to look for my golf ball in a location where, if I thought it through, I would know I’m not going to find it.
Recent statements by the US Navy Salvage Service, that the much heralded “pings” were not from the aircraft and the searchers have been looking in the wrong place, coupled with what continues to be a controversial Inmarsat analysis, are like my golf game. The search efforts have focused on an area where everyone hoped they would find the aircraft and persuaded themselves they would find it, even though hard evidence supporting that possibility appears to have been absent.
Now don’t get me wrong, all the governments involved are well meaning and highly motivated. The problem is that, in the absence of any hard evidence, they seized upon anything and everything available, and proceeded to construct elaborate analyses which have, in hindsight, lead the investigators to a dead end. In doing so, they explained away differences in the frequencies and other inconsistencies.
The only thing we have truly learned so far is that the ocean is very big and very deep. Little consolation to the families, whose fragile emotions have, not by design, been victimized by search authorities that are too willing, on occasion, to unqualifiedly legitimize what they are doing and why they’re doing it.
The Australians, in particular, find themselves in an uncomfortable position. Admirably, they stepped forward to take ownership of the search efforts. They have “institutionalized” the search by creating a Joint Agency Coordination Center. They validated the “pings”. They expended millions of dollars. Despite everything, they failed, and now face the prospect of $60 to $80 million in additional search costs and possibly years of effort.
I don’t suggest that the Australian Government should not have stepped forward or that what they have been doing has been in error or even that they should regret their decisions. But you have to wonder what they’re saying behind closed doors.
The whole investigation has become an object lesson in how not to handle an investigation. Communications, at all levels, appears to have been nothing short of disastrous. Transparency has been anything but. Nothing appears to even approach being worthy of being held up as a model of how the system is supposed to work.
While we may never know where the aircraft is resting, how it got there, or why it happened, at a minimum, we should use the “sideshow” surrounding MH 370 as an object lesson to make sure that accident investigation authorities in the future get their act together. By way of footnote, had the NTSB been running the show, it would never have become a sideshow.
Now, excuse me, I have to go look for my golf ball . . . . .
(Originally posted June 2, 2014)