According to a new report released by Malaysian officials, there was a four hour delay between the disappearance of Malaysian Air Flight 370 and a response from authorities in beginning a rescue mission. The report notes that after the flight signed off from Malaysia at 1:19am, it was supposed to later contact Vietnam, which it did not do. According to the data, for 17 minutes, neither Malaysia or Vietnam was in touch with the aircraft. The plane had disappeared from the radar and no one was aware of it. The plane, at the time of its disappearance, had enough fuel left to keep it airborne for 7 1/2 hours, but after four hours passed, that would have left it with only 2 1/2 hours of fuel left.
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.
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 Minhcontacted 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.