(Penang, Saturday): When early this month, the British newspapers reported that MAS for the sake of cost-cutting had indulged in the dangerous low fuel-tank policy and of flying "on empty" into London a fortnight ago , with ten such similar instances previously, the Minister for Transport, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik and his Parliamentary Secretary, Datuk Chor Chee Heung separately told the nation and Parliament respectively that the allegations were not true and that the Malaysian government had never been informed of such previous infractions.
The latest issue of the aviation magazine Flight International
(19th May 1999) has thrown new light on the controversy, reporting that
MAS had been indulging in such dangerous practices as far back as July
1997, and that the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
had uncovered 10 such instances and that on February 22 this year,
senior staff from its Safety Regulations Group flew into Kuala Lumpur where
they "received assurances" from the Malaysian aviation authorities
that the situation would be corrected.
Liong Sik cannot keep quiet on this report in Flight International, which if true, would mean three things:
"The UK Civil Aviation Authority claims to be unable to find reports which British Airways says it filed on a series of incidents involving Malaysia Airlines (MAS) 747-400s that arrived critically low on fuel at London Heathrow Airport. BA is the engineering service provided at the airport for the Asian carrier.
"While MAS continues to deny that it has been breaking fuel regulations, the CAA has confirmed that, on 5 July last year, an MAS Boeing 747-400 broadcast a ‘Pan’ emergency call, declaring a fuel shortage as it approached London.
"The record of MAS' fuel emergencies, starting in July 1997, was revealed when a Heathrow-based engineer filed an MAS fuel-shortage report in February this year, using the Confidential Human Factors Reporting System (Flight International, 12-18 May).
"The CAA's subsequent investigation uncovered 10 other such events by checking BA records. As a result, the CAA says, on 22 February, senior staff from its Safety Regulation Group flew to Kuala Lumpur where they "received assurances" from Malaysia aviation authorities that the situation would be corrected.
"BA says that it filed reports with the authorities and MAS whenever arrival fuel levels were dangerously low. Six events, BA says, were ‘so serious’ that it reported them to the CAA, using Mandatory Occurrence Report (MOR) forms, although MORs are mandatory only for UK registered aircraft.
"Yet the CAA says that it has no record of any reports being filed about MAS fuel shortages, except the MOR filed by the UK air traffic services about the 5 July Pan call. It is not resolved whether the reports were not lodged with the CAA, or if the CAA has lost track of them. The authority has asked BA for copies of the documents.
"Further evidence of MAS fuel policy is emerging following publication of the Heathrow incidents in Flight International last week. A former MAS pilot alleges: ‘We were constantly bombarded with notices and, occasionally, telephone calls from fleet managers in Malaysia for taking more than the minimum fuel as calculated by the company on a mass print-out navigation log for the route in question and which took no account of weather/loads/timing.’
"The US publication Aviation Daily says ‘a senior Malaysia Airlines flight operations official’ in Kuala Lumpur told it that, for more than two years, pilots ‘have been under orders to carry minimal fuel when weather conditions are favourable, to save on costs’.
"The UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions says it only knew of the problem in March.
"On 12 May, Malaysia officials arrived in London for discussions. After the talks, UK aviation minister Glenda Jackson said: ‘MAS has co-operated fully with the department in reviewing their fuel policy and examining why, on a very few occasions, low fuel levels may have been recorded on completion of a flight.
"‘Their offer to provide us with weekly reports of fuel levels of aircraft arriving in the UK has been incorporated into their conditions for operating into this country.’"
I now understand why MAS dared not take up earlier proposal that it should tsue the British newspapers and periodicals if the allegation that MAS had flown "on empty" over London is baseless and untrue to protect not only MAS’ good name but even more important Malaysia’s international reputation of reliability and trustworthiness.
MAS’ attitude has been reprehensible but what is really shocking is the attitude of the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik who must make a clear and immediate public statement to establish that he had not "aided and abetted" in MAS’ dangerous low-fuel policy just to cut costs, in utter disregard of the safety of MAS passengers and crew.