It took authorities four hours to activate a search and rescue operation after they lost contact with flight MH370, according to a preliminary report made public by the Malaysian government overnight.
The brief, five-page document, emailed to media organisations, also revealed it took 17 minutes to realise the plane had gone off the air traffic control radar.
The report provides no details on what authorities were doing during that time except that Kuala Lumpur contacted Singapore, Hong Kong, and Cambodia.
The Malaysian government has also released the cargo manifest and the seating chart.
International aviation authorities received the report within a month of the flight’s March 8 disappearance but its public release was delayed more than three weeks by Malaysia’s government.
The report recommends the International Civil Aviation Authority, the United Nations body that oversees global aviation, examines the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real-time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft.
Malaysia’s transport ministry pointed to the MH370 disappearance and that of Air France flight AF447 in 2009 as evidence that such real-time tracking would help to better monitor aircraft.
“There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner,” the ministry said.
The report also says the plane disappeared from radar an hour after it took off.
The document was accompanied by audio recordings of verbal exchanges between the cockpit of the Malaysia Airlines jet and air traffic controllers, and documents pertaining to the cargo manifest.
“[Prime Minister Najib Razak] 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,” an accompanying government statement said.
Malaysia is continuing to investigate what happened to the plane, saying this week it also had appointed a former head of the country’s civil aviation agency to head up a probe that will include members of the US National Transportation Safety Board and other foreign aviation agencies.
Thursday’s release did not contain any information from a separate Malaysian police investigation into whether a criminal act such as terrorism was to blame.
Hotel accommodation for family members to end this month
The report comes as Malaysia Airlines on Thursday announced it will cease to provide hotel accommodation for relatives of the missing flight’s passengers by May 7.
The Malaysian flag carrier has provided hotel accommodation for relatives in a number of countries – most of them in Malaysia and China – where it provided them periodic updates on the situation since shortly after the flight disappeared.
But relatives’ tempers have repeatedly flared, particularly at the Lido Hotel in Beijing where Chinese families have regularly lashed out at officials from the Malaysian government and the airline over their inability to explain the plane’s disappearance.
“Instead of staying in hotels, the families of MH370 are advised to receive information updates on the progress of the search and investigation and other support by Malaysia Airlines within the comfort of their own homes, with the support and care of their families and friends,” the airline said in a statement.
“In line with this adjustment, Malaysia Airlines will be closing all of its family assistance centres around the world by 7 May 2014.”
The government-controlled carrier also said it would soon make advance compensation payments to the next-of-kin of the 239 people onboard the plane, part of a final package to be agreed upon later.
It did not specify the amounts.
The airline also had provided psychiatric support at hotels for families trying to cope with the tragedy.
The carrier said it would establish centres in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur to provide “follow-up support and services” but gave no further specifics.
Input source: ABC Online