MH370 remains a mystery as Malaysia releases report

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia on Thursday made public a report on Flight MH370 and other data in its most extensive release of information on the airliner yet, but which contained no new clues on what happened to the missing plane.

The brief five-page report dated April 9, and which was submitted earlier to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), was mostly a recap of information that had already been released over time.

It contained no major revelations in what remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.

"Over a month after the aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport, its location is still unknown," the report said.

The Malaysia Airlines flight vanished March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

It is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, but a massive search for wreckage has been fruitless.

The information release was accompanied by audio recordings of verbal exchanges between the cockpit of the jet and air traffic controllers, and documents pertaining to the cargo manifest.

The collected information also recapped exchanges between the flag carrier and confused Malaysian, Vietnamese and Cambodian air-traffic controllers as they sought to determine what happened to the plane after it disappeared from primary radar over the South China Sea at 1:21 am on March 8.

The main report is required by the ICAO within 30 days of a crash, and Malaysian authorities have confirmed it was submitted on time.

However, they waited another three weeks before releasing the brief document, with Prime Minister Najib Razak saying last week he wanted it to be reviewed first by an "internal" team of experts.

Recommendation on real-time tracking

Malaysia's long-ruling government, which has a poor record on transparency, was heavily criticised for a seemingly chaotic response and contradictory statements on MH370 in the early days of the crisis.

It has been tight-lipped about the progress of its ongoing investigations.

Some relatives of passengers have angrily accused the government and airline of incompetence and withholding incriminating information, charges that are denied.

A statement accompanying Thursday's release said "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."

Malaysia is continuing to investigate what happened to the plane, saying this week it had appointed a former head of the country's civil aviation to head up an overall probe that will include members of the US National Transportation Safety Board and other foreign aviation agencies.

Thursday's release did not contain any information from a Malaysian police investigation into whether a criminal act such as terrorism was to blame.

Malaysia's air force has admitted tracking a radar blip later determined to be MH370 as it crossed Malaysian airspace after its diversion. It later moved out toward the Indian Ocean.

The military has come under fire for failing to respond to the unidentified image, losing potentially valuable time in tracking the plane.

Thursday's data confirmed that the military did not inform civilian authorities of the radar image until 10:30 am on March 8, nearly eight hours after the air force has said the blip was first spotted.

Malaysian authorities have previously said that the plane's transponder, which relays its location, and a separate automated system that transmits information on the state of the aircraft both appeared to have been shut off around the time it was diverted, suggesting a deliberate act.

The report concluded by recommending to the ICAO that it "examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real-time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft," to prevent planes going missing in future.