After months of pressure, the Malaysian government today released the raw data it used to determine the possible whereabouts of the missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner, but experts say there are glaring gaps in the figures.
The 47-page document is composed of data from the hourly “handshakes” made between the plane and British company Inmarsat's satellites – an aircraft’s version of posting a status update. It includes communications from before the aircraft’s takeoff at 12:41 a.m. on the morning of March 8 up until its final transmission around 8:19 a.m.
But critics quickly pointed out that the data lacks crucial elements that would allow outside experts to verify the plane’s last location.
“[The data points] answer a few of the questions we have had, but leave many questions unanswered," Michael Exner, one of the experts who has reviewed the document, told CNN.
The data’s release was meant to show how the Malaysian government came to the conclusion that Flight 370 crashed in the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia, a theory that was met with some skepticism and had many people questioning whether the Malaysian government was withholding information from the public.
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An introduction to the document says the data is "intended to provide a readable summary of the data communication logs from the Inmarsat satellite system.”
Since the search for the missing jetliner began nearly three months ago, relatives of the 239 passengers of Flight 370 have entreated the Malaysian government to be more transparent about information obtained through search efforts. The hope was that by making the data public, it would allow a wider range of experts to corroborate the information.
"When we first asked for the data it was more than two months ago,” Sarah Bajc, the American partner of one of the passengers, told Reuters. “I never dreamed it would be such an obstacle to overcome.”
The data was first released to relatives of passengers before it was made available to media, according to CNN.
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 sparked the most extensive search for a missing plane in aviation history. So far, search efforts have failed to turn up any trace of the Boeing 777. Officials say searching the 60,000-square-kilometer area where the plane is believed to have gone down could take up to a year.