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.
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 standard.
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," Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a statement Thursday.