Breaking news: Malaysia Airlines jet could have flown unchallenged across Asian airspace

A former Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot and air accidents investigator says Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could have flown over any number of countries unchallenged by military air defence.

Peter Rhodes has told TVNZ tonight that because military radar personnel use primary radar, they cannot see the flight identities of commercial aircraft and, as a rule, don’t challenge commercial airliners transiting their airspace.

“Military radar would only see primary returns, normally, and would not be seeing the air traffic clearances that had been issued. So if the aircraft was in a normal aircraft corridor for commercial aircraft it would probably be of no interest to them.”

Rhodes’ statement sheds significant new light on how the Boeing 777 jetliner could have crossed the airspace of a number of countries without being intercepted.

While such a system may be practical for civilian air traffic purposes, the lack of cross-referencing between civilian ATC towers and their military counterparts exposes glaring security holes allowing virtually any civil aircraft to use agreed air corridors when they could be a security threat, by falling between supervisory cracks into an air traffic control no-man’s land.

Rhodes has added further fuel to the fire by revealing Malaysian Air Traffic Control would have known the instant that Flight MH370’s secondary radar transponder was switched off.

“Air Traffic Control would immediately start to query what’s happened,” Rhodes told interviewer Mike Hosking.

“So the fact that they didn’t seem to query it, is that odd?”

“Yes,” confirmed Rhodes, who said a flight whose transponder switched off should have raised alarm bells for civilian controllers trained to check if the flight was still OK. Malaysia has not released the conversations that followed the transponder being disabled, but there is no evidence to date that Malaysian control batted an eyelid when the jet “disappeared”.