The Malaysian government has released a preliminary report of its investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN reports.
On the fateful night that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, officials apparently didn't notice for 17 minutes that it had gone off radar -- and didn't activate an official rescue operation for four hours.
According to CNN, the report does not explain what happened during those fours hours, does not mention the military’s role that night, and recommends the use of real-time tracking (though it is not required for 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."
The report was released today by Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport, which had also sent it to the United Nations’s International Civil Aviation Organization.
As the report was released, Malaysia Airlines told the families of the passengers to return home to wait for news of the search, the Associated Press reports.
Since the Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, the airline has been putting the relatives up in hotels, where they've been briefed on the search. But the airline said in a statement Thursday that it would close its family assistance centers around the world by May 7, and that the families should receive search updates from "the comfort of their own homes."
The missing jetliner lost contact on March 8 about 40 minutes into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The jetliner was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers.
For more than seven weeks, a massive international search effort has been underway to find the Boeing 777. On Tuesday, Malaysian officials said the underwater search will be expanded. Officials also said radar and satellite data showed the plane veered off course for unknown reasons, and analysis indicated that it likely ran out of fuel in a remote section of the Indian ocean — the same area where the search has been focused.
The Australian agency leading the search effort has also dismissed a recent claim by a company that it found possible wreckage in the Bay of Bengal, according to the Associated Press.
"The Australian led search is relying on information from satellite and other data to determine the missing aircraft's location. The location specified by the GeoResonance report is not within the search arc derived from this data," the Joint Agency Coordination Center, which is heading up the search off Australia's west coast, said in a statement on Tuesday. "The joint international team is satisfied that the final resting place of the missing aircraft is in the southerly portion of the search arc."