Tracking firm: Plane missing about 50min after departure

A Malaysia Airlines flag is seen at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.

PETALING JAYA - Sweden-based flight tracking service FlightRadar24 was the first to report that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from radar about 50 minutes of departure, and not two hours as initially stated.

"Flight #MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 1641 UTC time (12.41am local time) and disappeared from at 1720 UTC time (about 1.21am local time) between Malaysia and Vietnam," said the company's chief executive officer Fredrik Lindahl in an e-mail response to The Star.

Flight MH370, on a B777-200 aircraft, departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on March 8. It was expected to land in Beijing at 6.30am the same day.

"Also, based on our data, there is no doubt that the last reported position of MH370 is about 150km northeast of Kuala Terengganu.

"We have good radar coverage in the area the flight went missing and the last signal was received from an altitude of 35,000 feet," said Lindahl.

MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya had initially said at a press conference at 11am yesterday that the Subang Air Traffic Control had lost contact with the plane around 2.40am.

However, Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman clarified later in the evening that contact was lost at 1.30am.

Meanwhile, aviation website The Aviation Herald stated that the plane was last regularly seen at 1.22am about halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

"The aircraft was spotted over the Gulf of Thailand about 260 nautical miles north northeast of Kuala Lumpur and 120 nautical miles northeast of Kota Baru 50 minutes into the flight.

"This was followed by anomalies in the radar data of the aircraft over the next minute. Although these may be related to the aircraft, it could also be caused by the flight leaving the receiver range," it stated.

The website also reported aviation sources in China as saying that radar data suggested a steep and sudden descent of the flight, during which time the aircraft had changed track from 24 degrees to 333 degrees.