Malaysian authorities and British satellite firm Inmarsat on Tuesday released raw satellite data used to narrow down the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, providing public access to information that led investigators to believe that the missing jetliner ran out of fuel and crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean.
The 47-page report prepared by Inmarsat, whose satellite last communicated with the missing plane, features hourly "handshakes" or network log-on confirmations, after the aircraft disappeared from radar screens. The satellite data was released after weeks of pressure from the family members of the jet's passengers who demanded access to the data for independent analysis. Despite an extensive search that has cost millions of dollars and yet yielded no clues about the fate of the missing plane, investigators are confident Flight MH370 ended up in a part of the ocean where signals similar to those transmitted by a flight data recorder were last heard in April.
"Inmarsat and the DCA have been working for the release of the data communication logs and the technical description of the analysis," Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, or DCA, said in a statement.
Sarah Bajc, the relative of a passenger, told Reuters from Beijing: "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.” However, some of the relatives of the passengers on board the missing flight have complained that the data is incomplete, Reuters reported.
Malaysian investigators reportedly claim that they suspect someone closed the jetliner’s data links making it impossible to track the plane, but have failed to turn up any evidence confirming their suspicions about the crew or the passengers.
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Meanwhile, the underwater search for the missing jet will be put on hold this week and may not resume until August, CNN reported, citing Australia’s top transport safety official. Bluefin-21, the U.S. Navy's underwater drone, which is operated by a team on board the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield, will wrap up its search in the next few days, and it could reportedly take up to two months until new underwater vehicles are contracted and deployed for the hunt of the missing Beijing-bound Boeing 777.
Earlier in May, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston told Sky News Australia that new equipment will be deployed in the search off the coast of Western Australia sometime in June.