By Siva Govindasamy
KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 (Reuters) - Malaysia released a preliminary report on missing Flight MH370 on Thursday in which it recommended that the U.N. body overseeing global aviation consider introducing a system for tracking commercial aircraft in real time.
In the report dated April 9, but only just made available to the media, the ministry pointed to the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft and Air France Flight AF447 in 2009 as evidence that such real-time tracking would help to locate missing aircaft more easily in future.
"There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known," the Transport Ministry said.
"This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner."
The report called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to "examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real-time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft".
Flight MH370, which had 239 passengers and crew on board, disappeared off civilian radars while on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
The search for the Boeing 777-200ER is already the biggest in aviation history, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it had entered a new phase which could take six to eight months to complete.
Families of the missing passengers, the majority of whom are Chinese, have directed their anger largely at Malaysia's authorities and military for failing to do enough to track the aircraft after it turned back after takeoff.
The report confirmed that military radar tracked a plane as it turned in a westerly direction across the Malaysian peninsula on the morning of March 8, and that it took no further action because the plane was deemed "friendly".
However, it did not explain why Flight MH370 had been categorized as friendly even through its transponder was switched off by the time it turned back, one of many mysteries surrounding its fate that remain unanswered.
Still unknown is who or what led to MH370 veering off its original flight path and eventually ending up several thousand kilometers (miles) away in the southern Indian Ocean. (Writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Mark Heinrich)