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article imageMalaysia did not realize Flight 370 was missing for 17 minutes

By Nathan Salant     May 2, 2014 in Travel
Perth - Malaysia Airlines did not realize Flight 370 was missing until 17 minutes after the jetliner disappeared from radar and did not begin searching for the plane for another four hours, authorities said.
The disclosures came Thursday as Malaysia's government released a preliminary report on the mysterious disappearance of the Boeing 777, which vanished without a trace March 8 on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
But the report does not contain any information that reveals what happened to the jet or why, because authorities apparently still do not know, eight weeks after the incident, according to the Reuters news service.
The report, submitted last month to the International Civil Aviation Organization, does reveal what authorities did after the plane with 239 passengers and crew disappeared from civilian radar.
A weeks-long international search around Malaysia and Indonesia, and then in the Indian Ocean off Australia, failed to turn up any debris or clues to the plane's whereabouts.
But Malaysian authorities did not realize that something had gone wrong until they were notified by air traffic controllers in Vietnam that the plane had not checked in and could not be seen on radar.
Malaysia;s prime minister, Najib Razak, appointed a team of experts last week to review all the information the government had 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.
Hishammuddin, the country's acting transport minister, said a check of data from Malaysia's military radar seven hours after the plane disappeared showed Flight 370 turning west and flying across the country.
He said he informed Razak two hours later, and the prime minister ordered a search in the Strait of Malacca, which separates Malaysia and Indonesia, but did not pursue the jet.
"The aircraft was categorized as friendly by the radar operator and therefore no further action was taken at the time," Hishammuddin said.
Malaysia's report also recommended that the ICAO order the introduction of an automatic system for tracking all commercial jets, Reuters said.
The agency will be meeting later this month in Montreal, Reuters said.
In another development, Malaysia Airlines has begun urging families staying in Kuala Lumpur while authorities search for their loved ones to return home.
The airline has been paying for hundreds of relatives to stay in hotels while the search has continued and pledged to keep in touch with family members and pay early compensation.
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