Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Government finally releases 47 pages of 'missing' satellite data as requested by families

But families say some data still withheld by Malaysian authorities

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The Independent Online

The Malaysian government has finally released the satellite data it used to track the last movements of the missing flight MH370, more than two months after they were requested by families seeking greater transparency.

The report, produced jointly with the British satellite firm Inmarsat, runs to 47 pages and includes details on the hourly “handshakes” made after the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar on 8 March.

The relatives of those who were on board the Boeing 777 when it vanished said they hope opening up the data to analysis from experts around the world will help verify the search area currently defined off the coast of Australia.

But following repeated accusations that the Malaysian government has kept them in the dark throughout the investigation, one family said they still feel some data has been withheld.

Sarah Bajc, the American partner of passenger Phil Wood, said: “When we first asked for the data it was more than two months ago. I never dreamed it would be such an obstacle to overcome."

She said the report released on today had gaps where information had been removed “to improve readability”, and that there was no sign of comparable records from previous flights on MH370's route that the families had requested.

“Why couldn't they have submitted that?” she said. “It only makes sense if they are hiding something.”

Ms Bajc said experts on flight tracking who have been advising the families would now be able to analyse the data to see if the search area could be refined and determine if Inmarsat and other officials had missed anything.

According to the existing analysis, the aircraft is believed to have gone down in the Indian Ocean, off western Australia.

Malaysian investigators suspect someone shut off MH370's transponder equipment, making the plane impossible to track – but investigators have so far turned up nothing suspicious about the crew or passengers.

In the hours after the aircraft disappeared, an Inmarsat satellite picked up a handful of handshake “pings”, or network log-on confirmations, indicating the plane continued flying for hours.

Malaysia's Civil Aviation Department (DCA) Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman speaks to members of the media in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 May

The newly-released technical data details satellite communications from before MH370's take-off on the Saturday morning at 12.41am to a final, “partial handshake” transmitted by the plane at 8.19am.

The data includes a final transmission from the plane 8 seconds later, after which there was no further response, as well as two “telephony calls” initiated from the ground at 2.39am and 7.13am that went unanswered by the plane.

The time of the last satellite contact was consistent with the plane's fuel capacity.

The search in the southern Indian Ocean was further narrowed on the basis of acoustic signals believed to have come from the aircraft's “black box” flight recorders – but the most expensive search in aviation history has still failed to find any trace of the plane.