Confusion revealed as Malaysia releases missing plane report
The Malaysian government today released its most comprehensive account yet of what happened to missing Flight MH370, in a preliminary report that detailed the route the plane probably took as it veered off course and revealed the confusion that followed.
It showed four hours elapsed between the first sign that the Malaysia Airlines jet had failed to report in when expected to and the decision to mount a search operation - and that time included lapses of communication and a false lead from the airline itself.
The document, dated April 9, also contributed to a growing safety debate by urging the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN body that oversees aviation, to consider introducing a system for tracking commercial jets.
The call comes ahead of a meeting at the Montreal-based agency later this month to address mounting pressure for improvements to fill communications blind spots over the world's oceans, but until now regulators have said such systems still need to be proven despite lobbying by the satellite industry.
The Malaysian government and military have come under intense criticism for their handling of events on and after March 8, when the Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board.
Although the preliminary report issued by the Ministry of Transport leaves many key questions about what happened nearly eight weeks ago unanswered, and is not intended to resolve speculation about the cause, Malaysia may be hoping it sets the record straight on at least some of the contentious issues.
The fate of Flight MH370 remains a mystery despite the biggest search operation in commercial aviation history, and relatives of the passengers on board are desperate for confirmation of what happened to their loved ones.
Boeing, the manufacturer of the 777 aircraft, will also be keen to learn exactly what caused the plane to veer sharply off course and disappear from sight, and in particular whether it was mechanical failure or human intervention.
While not ruling out technical faults, a parallel Malaysian police investigation has so far focused on the pilots amid signs that the aircraft followed a twisting and deliberate course for at least the first hour of its journey off course.