LONDON – Malaysia Airlines failed to properly preserve flight recordings during an incident at London's Heathrow Airport in 2012 when a plane had to turn back because of technical problems, a report by Britain's air accidents investigator found Thursday.
The report was published as search teams continue to hunt for the airline's missing Flight 370, which disappeared in an unrelated incident last month on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard. Experts hope that if wreckage from that plane is found it will include the black box, considered crucial to understanding what went wrong on the flight.
Black boxes refer to the cockpit voice recorder, which runs on a loop and captures two hours of sound, and the flight data recorder, which logs performance and metrics like speed and direction.
In the earlier incident in Britain, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747 bound for Kuala Lumpur with 340 passengers on board had to return to Heathrow soon after takeoff on Aug. 17, 2012, because of engine and electrical failures. The pilots flew the plane manually and returned to the airport safely.
Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said all the audio information relating to the incident was lost because the cockpit voice recorder ran on long after the landing and erased previous data.
"The investigation determined that the operator's procedures for the preservation of flight recordings were not sufficiently robust to ensure that recordings would be preserved in a timely manner following an incident or accident," the report said.
The report added that the airline said it was willing to train its staff to ensure they take steps to secure the recordings as soon as possible after an emergency.