Malaysia flight shows that aircraft need secure transponders

A navigational radar on an Indonesian search-and-rescue boat looking for missing flight MH370 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Should pilots be able to shut off transponders at the flick of a switch?

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

"No one thought a big Boeing B777 jet could vanish into thin air in this day of highly computerised flight decks, advanced satellite communications and 21st century tracking systems," writes Orient Aviation magazine's Tom Ballantyne for al-Jazeera.

He says that the flight's disappearance will be a "landmark period in the history of aviation safety".

Things are going to have to change, he argues. Should pilots really have the ability to turn off an essential identification device, like a transponder, at the flick of a switch? Can passenger aircraft transmit more data to satellites, ensuring their exact location and status is always known?

"The blame game has yet to begin but hopefully the outcome will lead to an incredibly safe mode of transport becoming even safer," he writes.

Gregg Easterbrook of the Atlantic, in the New York Times, asks: Why wasn't transponder security fixed after the 11 September 2001 attacks?

"Pilots like their locations to be known - for ground assistance, and because the transponder warns other nearby planes of their course and altitude," he writes. "Only a hijacker at the controls of an aircraft would want the transponder silent."

He continues:

The transponder's off switch is a vestige of an earlier era, before reliable chip-based electronics. Older model transponders sometimes sent out spurious altitude readings.

Easterbrook concludes:

The solution is a location-broadcasting system that the flight crew cannot switch off. Over the next few years, much of the world plans to adopt an aviation tracking standard called ADS-B, which should make it harder for a plane to stop reporting its position. Automated transponders should be part of that transition.

Russia

Winning Crimea but losing Ukraine -Vladimir Putin is no Hitler, but the Russian president believes his country's time has come, writes Dominique Moisi in Les Echos (translated by WorldCrunch). His attempts to rebuild the Russian empire reveal a strategic mistake, however. "By revealing his true face, probably too early, with a brutality than can only push most Ukrainians into the arms of Europe, he has won, at best, a Pyrrhic victory," he argues.

Iran

Four days in Tehran - BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet writes about her "moments of surprise" during a recent trip to Tehran. The city is growing rapidly, and signs of Western culture appear in the unlikeliest of places.

"Iranians of all ages are engaging with the world from a cyber distance, despite bans on satellite TV and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter," she writes.

Venezuela

Preparing for a coup - "Economic chaos" in Venezuela makes a coup increasingly likely, writes Colombian attorney Michael Fumento in Canada's National Post. "If and when this happens, the United States should have a plan in place to co-operate with sympathetic officials, including the provision of aid-and-trade packages," he writes. Otherwise, China will step in, giving them greater influence in South America.

Uganda

Western zealotry behind Uganda's anti-gay law - Outside activists on both sides of the homosexuality issue are polarising the situation in Uganda following passage of a law prohibiting homosexual acts, writes Noosim Naimasiah in South Africa's Mail & Guardian. "The homosexuality debate has in essence become the sovereignty debate, so that those who politically oppose the hegemony of the West in effect become anti-homosexuality proponents and those who support it pro-American neoliberalists," she writes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Afghan papers have reacted to a report in the Washington Post saying the US is discussing with Pakistan the possible hand-over of its military equipment now being decommissioned in Afghanistan.

"The people, security forces and the government of Afghanistan want the American forces to hand over the equipment to Afghan forces as the NATO member countries in the Lisbon conference were committed to equipping the Afghan security forces. But now they are delivering their equipment to Pakistan on the eve of their withdrawal... A number of people believe that the Americans do not want to change the balance of power in the region to the detriment of Pakistan. They should understand that the handover of even 100,000 armoured vehicles and anti-insurgency technology will not change the balance of power." - Hasht-e Sobh (independent Afghan paper).

"Is this the logic of friendship? They (the Americans) say that Afghans do not need or won't look after the equipment. Is this not an insult to the Afghan nation? Is the argument not making fun of Afghan officials, politicians and political wisdom?" - Weesa (private Afghan paper).

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