Recordings of conversations between the missing Malaysia Airlines jet's pilots and air traffic controllers were released for the first time Thursday as authorities urged an international aviation body to consider real-time tracking of commercial jets.
Not a single trace of debris from MH370 has been found in the search for the missing jet, which disappeared two months ago.
Malaysia's Air Accident Investigation Bureau published a preliminary report dated April 9 but released on Thursday (PDF) detailing a timeline of the search and making a preliminary safety recommendation.
The release of the recordings marks the first time the public can hear the calm transmissions leading up to the final words from MH370's flight deck: “Good night, Malaysian three seven zero.”
The report spells out four hours of confusion after the jet disappeared on the night of March 8.
Vietnamese air traffic controllers reported at 1:38 a.m. local time that the flight had not made contact as expected. Malaysian air traffic controllers then alerted the airline’s operations center as well as other air traffic control centers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Phnom Penh as they tried to establish the whereabouts of the plane. When no trace of the jet could be found, a formal rescue operation began at 5:30 a.m.
Malaysian officials also published the cargo manifest and seating plan (PDF) for the doomed Boeing 777.
The report said that a lack of real-time tracking devices for aircraft has resulted in "significant difficulty" in locating a missing aircraft "in a timely manner."
“It is recommended that the International Civil Aviation Organization examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real-time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft,” the report said.
The report was sent to passengers' families ahead of its release. It comes comes shortly after Malaysia Airlines told the families of passengers to go home and wait for any updates on the fate of their loved ones.
The families of the missing have repeatedly complained and protested about what they consider to be a lack of transparency on the part of Malaysian authorities.
Officials on Thursday also released several audio recordings of conversations between the cockpit of MH370 and air traffic control.
Planes, ships and investigators from 26 nations have been scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the Boeing 777 that vanished on March 8 as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Jonathan Morgan file
The Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, on 8 March 2014, is seen at Los Angeles International Airport on Nov. 15, 2013
False leads have abounded and now most of the ships and aircraft have been cut loose by Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Center, which is leading the hunt. Two U.S. patrol planes have also been pulled.
Bluefin-21, the U.S. Navy's robot submarine that has carried most of the recent load of the search, will continue to look for evidence of the flight as the focus shifts underwater.
- Henry Austin and F. Brinley Bruton contributed to this report
First published May 1 2014, 4:58 AM