Air traffic controllers apparently did not realise the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was missing until 17 minutes after it disappeared from civilian radar, according to the preliminary report on the plane's disappearance released by Malaysia's government today.
The information came as part of a five page report detailing the investigation into the jetliner, which vanished on 8 March with 239 people on board while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The report comes after Malaysia Airlines asked relatives of those on board to leave the accommodation they were providing for them and return home. It promised to keep families updated on the search.
The plane disappeared off Malaysian radar at 1.21 am, but Vietnamese air traffic controllers only queried about it at 1.38 am, according to the report, which was sent last month to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Malaysian authorities did not launch an official search and rescue operation until four hours later, at 5.30 am, after efforts to locate the plane failed, The Associated Press reported.
A separate report detailing the actions taken by air traffic controllers showed Vietnamese controllers contacted Kuala Lumpur after they failed to establish verbal contact with the pilots and the plane didn't show up on their radar.
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
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A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burns incense as he prays at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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Family members of passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burn incense to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 comforts another relative as they gather to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry as they gather at the Lama Temple in Beijing. Chinese relatives marked 100 days since the plane went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing by offering prayers and burning incense at the buddhist temple
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Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 offer prayers at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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A Chinese relative of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 prays at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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Chinese relatives of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 hold incense sticks and pray at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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Intan Maizura Othman (34) wife of MH370 fligh attendant Hazrin Hasnan holds placard during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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A young relative tries to stick paper planes on a board during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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Pictures of crews and passengers is displayed during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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Chinese police men try to prevent relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH370 from marching to the Malaysian embassy from a hotel in Beijing
12/13 Search for flight MH370
Boatswain's Mate, Able Seaman Morgan Macdonald (L) observing markers from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion at sea in the Southern Indian Ocean. An oil slick in the Indian Ocean is not from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, officials said when insisting underwater search efforts would be 'pursued to their completion'
13/13 Search for flight MH370
Craig Turner from Phoenix International monitoring the Artemis' depth and speed as the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle scans the ocean floor for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 in the southern Indian Ocean
This second document showed that Malaysia Airlines at one point thought the plane may have entered Cambodian airspace.
The airline said in the report that "MH370 was able to exchange signals with the flight and flying in Cambodian airspace," but Cambodian authorities said they had no information or contact with Flight 370. It was unclear which flight it was referring to that exchanged signals with MH370.
In addition to the report, dated 9 April, the government also released other information from the investigation, including audio recordings of conversations between the cockpit and air traffic control, the plane's cargo manifest and its seating plan.
Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia's military radar tracked the jet making a turn-back in a westerly direction across Peninsular Malaysia after playing back radar data the next morning, nearly seven hours after the plane vanished from civilian radar.
He said he was informed about the military discovery two hours later and relayed this to Najib, who immediately ordered a search in the Strait of Malacca. He defended the military's inaction in pursuing the plane for identification.
"The aircraft was categorized as friendly by the radar operator and therefore no further action was taken at the time," Mr Hishammuddin said.
The preliminary report recommended the International Civil Aviation Organization "examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft."
Additional reporting by Associated Press.