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Missing Flight 370 official report: Did response delays doom the plane?

The Malaysia government issued the first report Thursday on the investigation into missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the Boeing 777 containing 239 passengers and crew that disappeared without a trace on March 8. In it were two glaring delays: A 17-minute delay in noticing that the plane had gone missing and a four-hour gap between the time the plane was found to be missing and the initiation of search and rescue efforts.

As CNN International reported May 1: "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."

The first seventeen-minute gap came in the period where Malaysia air traffic authorities were supposed to transfer tracking to Vietnam.

Flight MH370, an airliner out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and headed to Beijing, China, disappeared from radar at 1:21 a.m. on March 8.

Malaysia would pick up the plane again, noting that the Boeing 777 had altered course, making a u-turn back toward the Malaysia mainland.

There would be a four-hour delay between the time officials discovered that the Malaysia Airlines plane had disappeared and the time when search efforts would begin. No explanation is mentioned in the official report as to why officials allowed so much time to elapse before initiating search operations.

According to CBS News, the Malaysia military would report that they had tracked the an unidentified plane (later ascertained to be Flight 370) over the Strait of Malacca off the western coast of Malaysia at 2:15 a.m.

There would also be a delay involved in reporting the unidentified plane. The military did not report picking up the airplane for eight hours.

The delays and time gaps between disappearances and possible sightings are all left unexplained in the five-page report. The document was originally written on April 9, a month and one day after the jet vanished. Its lack of detail has caused the international community to question the Malaysian government's handling of the investigation.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 remains missing. This week, air and water surface searches were discontinued. The Australia agency in charge of the continuing search for the plane, now primarily off the west coast of Australia, announced it will concentrate on underwater exploratory measures in the hope of finding the plane's black boxes, the flight recorders that monitor the airplanes every move.

The original search began in the South China Sea, where the airplane was believed to have gone down. Subsequent discoveries and revelations, along with information from satellites and calculations regarding the jet's fuel supply, moved the search west, then south, where it remains, albeit with an ever-expanding search area.

Questions surround the missing plane, but chief among them: Did the delays and information gaps contribute to the plane's disappearance? To re-couch the question: Could a better response by Malaysian civil and military authorities have prevented Flight MH370 from vanishing?

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