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Mon, Oct 06, 2003

Sabotage On Australian-Bound Flight?

Wires Cut at Kuala Lumpur

A commercial aircraft headed from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Perth, Australia, was grounded Thursday after a pre-flight inspection showed someone had cut wires to navigation and flight control systems.

The Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 was two hours from take-off when ground crews spotted what appears to have been sabotage and reported it to authorities.

Chances are slim-to-none that the aircraft would have left the ground if workers at the gate hadn't discovered the damage. Warning systems would have told the pilots something was terribly wrong long before they were number-one on the runway.

"Any fault no matter how minor would be detected by the aircraft's monitoring systems," one air safety source said. The Airbus A330, which entered service in the early 1990s has never been involved in an airline accident.

"What's certain is that the damage was quite severe and now we are focusing on who is responsible for this," a police source told the native-language Mingguan Malaysia newspaper Saturday.

Malaysia Airlines confirmed the incident Saturday. "The plane was not released when pre-departure checks indicated inoperable wiring on board," said corporate services senior general manager Mohamaddon Abdullah. "Upon further inspection, it was learnt that there could be a possible security breach and the police were promptly notified. There were some discrepancies in the aircraft's systems. The matter is now in the capable hands of the police investigating team with whom we are working very closely."

"I wouldn't be as concerned about what was done to the aircraft. I would however have been deeply worried about what may have been hidden on board," said a safety expert who declined to be named. "I very much doubt that this damage was done by an airline employee, because they would know that any sabotage would be picked up by the pre-flight checks. It is more likely the action of a contract worker, perhaps a cleaner, who has little knowledge of aircraft or their systems."

Security at Kuala Lumpur's international airport has been tightened up as a result of the incident. It's not the first time that a wiring problem was discovered on an outbound aircraft there. Another Perth-bound aircraft, a Boeing 777, was grounded after crews found a rat onboard. The flight crew was worried that the rodent might have partially chewed through a control cable. This time, authorities said, it appears a rat of a different kind got into the machinery of the A330.

FMI: www.malaysiaairlines.com.my

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