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Malaysia releases alarming report on MH370

May 1, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Air traffic controllers did not realize that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was missing until 17 minutes after it disappeared from civilian radar, according to a preliminary report on the plane's disappearance released Thursday by Malaysia's government.

May 1, 2014  By The Associated Press

The government also released other information from the investigation
into the flight, including audio recordings of conversations between
the cockpit and air traffic control, the plane's cargo manifest and its
seating plan.


It provided a map showing the Boeing 777's deduced
flight path and a document detailing actions taken by authorities during
the hours of confusion that followed the jet's disappearance near the
border between Malaysian and


Vietnamese airspace. Many of the details
have previously been disclosed.


The report noted that there is no
requirement for real-time tracking of commercial aircraft, and said the
uncertainty about Flight 370's last position made it much more difficult
to locate the plane. It recommended that international aviation
authorities examine the safety benefits of introducing a tracking


The plane went off Malaysian radar at
1:21 a.m. on March 8, and Vietnamese air traffic controllers began
contacting Kuala Lumpur at 1:38 a.m. after they failed to establish
verbal contact with the pilots and the plane didn't show up on their
radar, according to the five-page report, which was dated April 9 and
sent last month to the International Civil Aviation Organization.


The documents showed that
Malaysian authorities did not launch an official search and rescue
operation until four hours later, at 5:30 a.m., after efforts to locate
the plane failed.


They indicated that Malaysia Airlines at
one point thought the plane may have entered Cambodian airspace. The
airline said in the report that "MH370 was able to exchange signals with
the flight and flying in Cambodian airspace," but that Cambodian
authorities said they had no information or contact with Flight 370. It
was unclear which flight it was referring to that supposedly exchanged
signals with MH370.


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak last
week appointed a team of experts to review all the information the
government has regarding the missing plane, and decide which information
should be made public.


"The prime minister set, as a guiding
principle, the rule that as long as the release of a particular piece of
information does not hamper the investigation or the search operation,
in the interests of openness and transparency, the information should be
made public," Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a statement


Hishammuddin said authorities reviewed
data from Malaysian military radar hours after the plane vanished from
civilian radar, and only discovered then that it had tracked the jet
making a turn-back in a westerly direction across Peninsular Malaysia.


He said he was informed
about the military discovery two hours later and relayed this to Najib,
who immediately ordered a search in the Strait of Malacca. He defended
the military's inaction in pursuing the plane for identification.


"The aircraft was categorized as friendly
by the radar operator and therefore no further action was taken at the
time," Hishammuddin said.


The cargo manifest includes a receipt for
a package containing lithium ion batteries, noting that the package
"must be handled with care." Some questions had been raised in March
about the batteries, but Malaysia Airlines said then that they were in
compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the
International Air Transport Association requirements and classified as
"non-dangerous goods."


Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines on Thursday
told relatives of passengers who were aboard Flight 370 to move out of
hotels and return home to wait for news on the search for the plane.


Since the jet disappeared, the airline
has been putting the relatives up in hotels, where they've been briefed
on the search. But the airline said in a statement that it would close
its family assistance centres around the world by May 7, and that the
families should receive search updates from "the comfort of their own


The airline said it would
establish family support centres in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, and would
keep in close touch with the relatives through phone calls and meetings.


Malaysia Airlines also said it would pay advance compensation to the relatives.


The plane vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.


No wreckage from the plane has been
found, and an aerial search for surface debris ended Monday after six
weeks of fruitless hunting. An unmanned sub is continuing to search
underwater in an area of the southern Indian Ocean where sounds
consistent with a plane's black box were detected in early April.
Additional equipment is expected to be brought in within the next few
weeks to scour an expanded underwater area.


The head of the search effort has predicted that the search could drag on for as long as a year.


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