Confusion, misleading information and then long periods of nothing marked the first hours of what's now known as the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
It took air traffic controllers more than four hours after the last conversation with the cockpit to activate rescuers to look for the missing plane, which left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8 with 239 people on board.
Some delays in communication with an airliner over the ocean are normal, says CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.
But time was of the essence, and eventually, a lot was lost.
The plane probably ran out of fuel about 7½ hours into the flight, a Malaysia Airlines official has said. That means MH370 might have been flying during that four-hour gap.
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If so, it seems the Boeing jet only had 2½ hours of fuel left when rescuers first began searching for it.
'Good night, Malaysian Three Seven Zero'
The flight radioed its last words to the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre at 1:19 a.m. local time, according to an attachment to a preliminary report by Malaysia's Transportation Ministry. The report was released to the public Thursday.
The report itself is scant. Just five pages in length, it contains only a small fraction of the content of similar preliminary reports from past air disasters.
But combined with the air traffic transcript also released to the public, it gives a picture how the first hours progressed after MH 370 signed off.
Controllers told the airliner to check in with their counterparts in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. "Good night, Malaysian Three Seven Zero," someone in the cockpit answered.
That check-in never happened, but something else did. The plane dropped off radar, and the clock ticked.
"Control of the aircraft had left Malaysia to Vietnam. Even so, for 17 minutes, neither Kuala Lumpur nor Ho Chi Minh noticed nor acted," Quest said.
Then at 1:38 a.m., Ho Chi Minh contacted Kuala Lumpur to let the controllers know that it had not heard a word from the plane. "Verbal contact was not established," the transcript said.
The two control centers began a conversation about communications attempts with Flight 370 and previous radar blips along its path.
They spoke every few minutes.
Reassuring messages cost precious time
Then two messages came from Malaysia Airlines that may have taken more precious time.
At 2:03 a.m. came the first seemingly reassuring message from the airline. The plane was in Cambodian airspace, the airline told Kuala Lumpur air traffic control.
The Malaysians passed the message on to Vietnamese controllers. They then tried to confirm Malaysia Airlines' news with Cambodian air traffic controllers.
The airline later confirmed its reassuring message. It had been able to "exchange signals with the flight," which was in Cambodian airspace, the transcript read.
But an hour after Flight 370 signed off, Vietnamese air controllers poked holes in Malaysia Airlines' message. The flight had not been scheduled to fly over Cambodia, and officials there had no information on the plane -- nor contact with it.
Malaysian air traffic controllers kept in communication with the airline, which gave them yet another seemingly reassuring message at 2:35 a.m.
The airliner was "in normal condition based on signal download," which placed it off the coast of Vietnam.
The flight probably appeared to be on track to its destination of Beijing.
"We have two very unhelpful contributions from Malaysia Airlines -- one suggesting the plane is in Cambodia, the other saying everything's normal. Neither's true," Quest said.
Information 'not reliable for aircraft positioning'
If precious time had been lost by the trickle before, now it began to gush away.
Nearly an hour later, Malaysia Airlines qualified its previous information. Its new message: "The flight tracker information was based on flight projection and not reliable for aircraft positioning," the transcript read.
It was 3:30 a.m., but two more hours would pass before air traffic controllers notified rescuers.
In the meantime, controllers in Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City queried each other and the airline. Kuala Lumpur air traffic control contacted counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing.
Then at 5:20 a.m., a Malaysian official pronounced, based on what was known, "MH370 never left Malaysian airspace."
Ten minutes later, Malaysian air traffic controllers alerted a rescue coordination center.
Where was the military?
The Malaysian Prime Minister has said the military tracked the plane as it headed back across Malaysia.
According to the report, a playback of a recording from military primary radar revealed that an aircraft that may have been Flight 370 had made a westerly turn, crossing Peninsular Malaysia. The search area was then extended to the Strait of Malacca.
But it's unclear when that happened. The report makes no mention of the military's role the night of the disappearance.
The report is anemic on details
Preliminary reports are by their nature brief and to the point, but they are usually much longer than Malaysia's. Such reports and accompanying documents should be an audit of what happened and factually who did what, Quest said.
"I can certainly understand that the authorities had more pressing matters in finding the plane than writing a long report, when there will be plenty of other chances to do so," Quest said, "but this report is the barest possible they could get away with."
The equivalent preliminary report on Air France Flight 447 was 128 pages long. That report, produced by France's aviation safety agency just one month after the plane went missing in 2009, offered specific details on communication between various air traffic control centers.
Flight 447 was found more than a year later in the Atlantic Ocean; all 228 people on board had died.
And a preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau into the Qantas engine explosion in 2010 ran more than 40 pages, including diagrams and charts.
The Malaysian report was accompanied by a cargo manifest, seating plan, air traffic control transcripts and three maps.
Debate over transparency
The report released Thursday was the same one Malaysia submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization but had not been made public. Malaysian officials came under heavy criticism last week for submitting the report to the U.N. body but not making it available to relatives of passengers.
While authorities are not required to make a preliminary report public, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak acquiesced.
Reporters could not ask questions raised by the report since the document was released by e-mail and not at a news conference.
One safety recommendation
The report makes one safety recommendation: the need for real-time tracking.
Authorities noted that while commercial planes spend considerable time operating over remote areas, there is no requirement for real-time tracking of such 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," the Malaysian report states. "This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner."
CNN reported on this detail from the report last week.
The officials asked the International Civil Aviation Organization to examine the benefits of introducing a standard for real-time tracking of commercial planes.
It's the same recommendation that was made after the Air France Flight 447 disaster in 2009. But nothing seems to have happened after that report.
引擎型号：2 Rolls Royce RB211 Trent892B17
【MH 370 PRELIMINARY REPORT】
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF INSPECTOR OF AIR ACCIDENTS
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT
MH 370 PRELIMINARY REPORT
Aircraft Type & Registration: Boeing 777-2H6ER, 9M-MRO
Year of Manufacture: 29th May 2002
State of Registration: Malaysian
No & Type of Engines: Rolls Royce RB211 Trent 892B17
Location: Unknown (Last known Secondary Surveillance
Radar (SSR) return, Waypoint IGARI)
Date & Time (Local Time): 8 March 2014 & Unknown (last known SSR return
at 01:21:13 hours)
Operator: Malaysian Airlines (MAS)
Call-sign: MH 370
Type of Flight: Scheduled (Commercial Air Transport), IFR
Persons on Board: 227 passengers + 12 crew
At 01:38 hours Malaysian Time1 (MYT) on 8 March 2014 (Saturday), a Boeing 7772H6ER, registration 9M-MRO,and call-sign MH 370 with 227 passengers and 12
crew on board, was reported missing after passing waypoint IGARI2 while en-route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China.
The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Malaysia was informed that flight MH370 was missing and an investigation was launched.
In accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13 Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, and Malaysian Civil Aviation Regulation 1996
Part XII Investigation of Accidents and with established international arrangements, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the USA, representing the State
of Design and Manufacture of the aircraft, has appointed an Accredited Representative to participate fully in the investigation. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the United Kingdom, representing the State of Design and Manufacture for the engines, has also appointed an Accredited Representative.
The NTSB Accredited Representative is supported by a team of technical advisers from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing.
The AAIB Accredited Representative is supported by technical advisers from RollsRoyce and Inmarsat the operator of a Satellite which was in communication contact with the aircraft during the flight.
The Australian and Chinese Governments have also appointed Accredited Representatives in accordance with ICAO Annex 13, Para 5.23.
Malaysian Airlines (MAS) the operator, is cooperating with the investigation and providing expertise as required and the DCA Malaysia are being kept informed of developments.
History of the flight
At 00:41:43 MYT on 8 March 2014 (Saturday), MH 370 took off from Runway 32R at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on a scheduled flight to Beijing, China.
At 00:42:07 MYT, MH 370 was cleared to climb to Flight Level (FL) 1803 and was issued a direct track by LUMPUR APPROACH at Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control
Centre (KLATCC) to waypoint IGARI. MH 370 was transferred to LUMPUR RADAR at KLATCC at 00:42:52 MYT. The flight was then cleared to climb to FL 250 at
00:46:51 MYT and subsequently to FL 350 at 00:50:06 MYT. MH 370 reported maintaining FL 350 at 01:01:16 MYT and reported maintaining FL 350 again at
At 01:19:24 MYT LUMPUR RADAR at KLATCC instructed MH370 to contact HO CHI MINH Air Traffic Control Centre (HCMATCC) on radio frequency 120.9 MHz.
MH 370 acknowledged with “good night Malaysian Three Seven Zero”.
At 01:21:04 MYT, MH370 was observed on the radar screen at KLATCC as it passed over waypoint IGARI.
At 01:21:13 MYT the radar label for MH 370 disappeared from the radar screen at LUMPUR RADAR KLATCC.
At 01:38 MYT HCMATCC made a query to KLATCC on the whereabouts of MH 370. Thereafter KLATCC initiated efforts involving MAS OPS Center, Singapore ACC,
Hong Kong ACC and Phnom Penh ACC to establish the location of MH 370. No contact had been established by any ATC units and thus the Rescue Coordination
Centre (RCC) was activated at 05:30 MYT.
It was later established that the transmissions from the Aircraft Communication and Reporting System (ACARS) through satellite communication system occurred at
regular intervals starting before MH 370 departed Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at time 12:56:08 MYT and with the last communication occurred at 01:07:49 MYT.
Search and Rescue (SAR)
Kuala Lumpur Rescue Coordination Centre (KL RCC) was activated at 05:30 LT after all effort to communicate and locate the aircraft failed. Search and Rescue
(SAR) operations were conducted in the South China Sea where the aircraft position was last known.
A playback of a recording from military primary radar revealed that an aircraft with a possibility of MH 370 had made an air-turn back onto a Westerly heading crossing
Peninsular Malaysia. The search area was then extended to the Straits of Malacca.
After ACARS stopped transmitting the satellite communication system automatically transmitted seven messages that confirmed that the system was still logged onto the network. The last message was received by the satellite ground station at 08:19 MYT. With the primary radar data, analysis of the satellite data and aircraft performance data, the Investigation established that flight MH 370 flew along either a Northern or Southern Corridor. The last transmission occurred when the aircraft was on an arc of 40 degrees from the satellite. Based on this new development the search area was moved from the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca to the Northern and Southern Corridors.
On 24 March 2014 further analysis of the Inmarsat satellite data, using the changes in the satellites communication signal frequency (signal using the Doppler Effect), indicated that MH 370 flew the southern corridor and ended its flight in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. The investigation continues to analyse the satellite data and aircraft performance in order to further refine the area where the flight ended.
To date, a total of 26 countries have participated in the search for MH 370 comprising of 82 aircraft and 84 vessels.
SAR operations are on-going.
While the aircraft had the necessary communication equipment to provide information on its location, the last ACARS message occurred at 1:07:29 MYT, the last secondary radar detection at 1:21:13 MYT and the last satellite communication at 08:19 MYT on March 8th. Over a month after the aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport, its location is still unknown.
While commercial air transport aircraft spend considerable amounts of time operating over remote areas, there is currently no requirement for real time tracking of these 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.
Therefore, the Malaysian Air Accident Investigation Bureau makes the following safety recommendation to ICAO: 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 information contained in this preliminary report is correct at the time of issue and is intended to inform the aviation industry and the public of the general circumstances of the event. Readers are cautioned that there is the possibility that new information may become available that alters this Preliminary Report.
This report has been written in accordance with the ICAO Doc 9756 AN/965 Manual of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation – Part IV Reporting.
The Chief Inspector of Air Accidents
Ministry of Transport
9 April 2014