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  • 2 May 2014, 4:30

MH370 Hunt Began Four Hours After Jet Vanished

Documents released by the Malaysian Government reveal that there was a four hour delay before the search for MH370 begun.

According to one of a number of official documents, which form part of the preliminary report into the plane's disappearance, it took authorities 17 minutes to realise the plane had disappeared from radar and a further four hours before a search was initiated.

The document, entitled 'Actions taken between 01:38 and 06:14 on Saturday 8th March', shows how hours of confusion ensued before the Malaysian Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) was activated.

The document details conversations between Malaysian Air Traffic Control, Vietnamese Air Traffic control and a 'Watch Supervisor' at Malaysia Airlines in the hours after the plane disappeared.

It confirms that the Vietnamese did not make contact with the plane. It also, worryingly, shows that Malaysian Airlines (MAS) told Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control (ATCC) that they were tracking the plane when in fact they were tracking its projected path not its actual path.

The document reads: "MAS OPS Centre informed KL-ATCC that the flight tracker information was based on flight projection and not reliable for aircraft positioning."

That revelation came at 03:30, three hours after the plane went missing. In those three hours, Malaysia Airlines appears to have been telling air traffic control that it was tracking the plane.

The preliminary report also confirms facts already revealed by authorities over the past two months. It shows the cargo manifest confirming a consignment of Lithium Ion batteries and it shows the seating plan for the passengers.

Despite highlighting significant failures in the hours after the plane was lost, the report does nothing to solve the mystery of flight MH370.

Routinely, preliminary reports into aviation incidents make safety recommendations. In this case, because the incident remains a mystery, no specific recommendations have been made.

Instead, the report makes one broad recommendation which, if implemented, would avoid a repeat mystery. 

"It is recommended that the International Civil Aviation Organisation examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft." the report says.

In a separate development, the Malaysian Authorities have asked relatives of those on board the plane to wait for news at home rather than continue to stay in hotel accommodation provided by the airline.

The "Family Assistance Centres" will close on May 7, the authorities said. They insisted they will continue to keep family members updated on news of the search and investigation, both of which continue.

Some 239 people were aboard the jet and most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.

The plane vanished on Saturday March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in China.

Despite extensive searches from the air and in the sea, no trace of the aircraft has been found. It is likely it came down in the southern Indian Ocean.

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