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When the reports questioning the Fugro search were published, first thoughts were you get a lot of this stuff within air carriers; you know, Cathay pilots reckon BA crews are cowboys, both think Qantas are rogues etc. just tribal humour and basically harmless. I expect that in the highly competitive deep sea mapping arena the same sort of ‘joshing’ goes on. When bidding for work, where the competition is fierce, you could resonably expect some pushing and shoving. It does however ring some bells when a year later three, not one, but three competing companies unite and bring their joint, expert concerns to the attention of government, which according to recent press has happened. Sour grapes from one company beforehand, we could ignore but three – a year later, is a horse of a different colour.

One of the most frequently asked questions is why is an ‘air safety’ department running a maritime search operation? The Australian AMSA is a very sound organisation with a solid reputation; they may not have an in-house deep water search expert but they sure as hell know and understand how to manage maritime matters, but we never hear a peep out of them.

If there are valid questions about the ‘quality’ of the Fugro work, why were these issues not raised before work started? and why is the ATSB fielding those questions when we have fairly good Navy, SAR and AMSA experts on hand who would at very least know how to set about finding the answers?

One thing seems fairly clear, to avoid Australia taking a public flogging for the Malaysian search, for a Malaysian aircraft, those questions raised as to the value of the Fugro search data need to answered; quickly, effectively and with certainty, by experts. Those answers will not be found in the vacant lot of ATSB bright ideas. FCOL it took ’em three weeks to relocate a previously found aircraft with a buoy attached in 50 meters of water, 5 clicks off shore.