PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has defended the captain of flight MH134, which was forced to return to Brisbane soon after takeoff on July 18. The Airbus A330-300's airspeed indicator failed as the plane's pitot probes were covered, according to an investigation report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The Australian newspaper yesterday claimed that the captain and flight crew had been incompetent and negligent by proceeding with takeoff despite not having accurate airspeed readings. MAS has issued a statement to reaffirm its priority on safety. It said the captain on that flight was highly experienced. "Malaysia Airlines again would like to strongly stress that safety is of utmost importance at all times," it said. "Our pilots go through a very strict and comprehensive training and are required to complete 4,500 hours before being accorded captain status, well above the industry norms. "The captain in charge is a highly trained and experienced captain with 11,000 flight hours and has served Malaysia Airlines for over 20 years." The Australian newspaper quoted aviation experts as saying apart from the failure of the crew to remove the covers, the fact that the plane could take off without having airspeed readings was "unbelievable" and dangerous. "It is unbelievable that a professional airline crew could sit on the takeoff roll for 42 seconds and not notice they had no airspeed," former airline captain Byron Bailey was quoted as saying. "These calls are mandatory checks. The incompetence of this crew endangered the lives of all on board because flying around with no airspeed indication is hazardous in the extreme."