Raw satellite data used by telecommunications firm Inmarsat to determine the likely location of Flight MH370 wreckage have been made publicly available for independent experts to reassess.
The 47-page material containing details of MH370 satellite communication from before take-off on a Saturday morning at 12:41AM local time to a final, "partial handshake" transmitted by the plane at 8:19 AM, was handed over to family members of the missing passengers and subsequently to the media.
The data also shows records of two "telephony calls" initiated from the ground at 1839 GMT and 2313 GMT that went unanswered by the plane.
The analysis of regular pings, which kept being exchanged between Inmarsat’s satellite and systems aboard the doomed aircraft, led investigators to the conclusion that the plane must have remained airborne for hours after ACARS communication ceased and ran out of fuel somewhere above the southern Indian Ocean, west off the coast of Australia. However, no physical evidence of the plane’s crash has been found after more than two months of search.
Some experts believe ACARS (Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System), must have been intentionally disabled about an hour after MH370’s take-off on 8 March, as well as the radio transponder, enabling the plane’s identification by ground-based radar.
Families of passengers are hoping that opening up the data to analysis by a wider range of experts can help verify the plane's last location.
Since the search for the plane began, relatives of those aboard have been criticising the Malaysian government for holding back information. The release of Inmarsat’s data has therefore become a minor victory for them.
"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," Sarah Bajc, the American partner of a passenger, told Reuters from Beijing.
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.
But she complained the report released on Tuesday was missing data removed to improve readability, as well as 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."
The search for Flight MH370 has become the most expensive and costly operation of its kind in history. During the nearly three months of search efforts, the teams have scoured thousands of square miles of the ocean used an underwater submarine to investigate the area where signals consistent with those of the aircraft's black boxes had been intercepted.However, not a single piece of debris has been found.
Officials said that it could take a year to search the 60,000 sq km (23,000 sq mile) area where the plane could have come down.
Malaysia, China and Australia said in mid-May they had agreed to re-examine all data related to the missing plane to better determine the search area as the hunt enters a new, deep-sea phase.