Hall, the former NTSB chairman who now heads the law firm Hall & Associates, says it is time for the International Civil Aviation Organization — part of the United Nations — to set up an international team of investigation professionals.
“We can’t permit a situation to continue where we don’t have competent, independent people in charge of an investigation from day one,” Hall says.
However, Kenneth J. Button, director of the Center for Transportation, Policy, Operations and Logistics at George Mason University, notes that even U.S. investigators have made mistakes in past disasters. Further, he can’t imagine countries such as the U.S. ceding the investigatory powers they currently have to some international group.
“I think the Malaysian authorities may be unfairly blamed for a little of this,” Button says. “They’re getting a lot of information in and are handling it as best they can. Similar issues have arisen in most other countries.”
Flight 370’s disappearance also uncovered another lapse: Passenger passports were not checked against Interpol’s database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents. The fact is, most countries don’t run passports through the international policy agency’s computer system.
“It is not extremely unusual,” says Rafi Ron, a former chief of security at Tel Aviv’s airport and now head of New Age Security Solutions. To run the checks, countries would have to update software and link computer systems. “We’ve left a substantial loophole. There is only one thing behind it: cost.”
Without a computer link, it is hard to tell if a passport is stolen or a counterfeit. Ticket and gate agents don’t have much training is spotting fakes.
“Airline personnel only glance at the name to see that it matches the boarding pass and that the person presenting the passport looks similar to the person in front of them,” says Douglas R. Laird, former director of security at Northwest Airlines and now head of Laird & Associates, Inc. “With a long line of folks, this becomes a real issue. They need to board the plane as soon as possible.”