KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 ― Investigators have discovered the runways of five airports near the Indian Ocean loaded into Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home-made flight simulator, a Malay daily reported today.
An unnamed source told Berita Harian that while it was too early to make any conclusions on the new finding, it was still considered an important element in the probe on the whereabouts of the plane and its 239 people.
“The simulation programmes are based on runways at the Male International Airport in Maldives, an airport owned by the United States (Diego Garcia), and three other runways in India and Sri Lanka, all have runway lengths of 1,000 metres.
“We are not discounting the possibility that the plane landed on a runway that might not be heavily monitored, in addition to the theories that the plane landed on sea, in the hills, or in an open space,” the source was quoted as saying.
Although Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein denied yesterday that the plane had landed at US military base Diego Garcia, the source told the daily that this possibility will still be investigated based on the data found in Zaharie’s flight simulator software.
The police had seized the flight simulator from the 53-year-old pilot’s house in Shah Alam on Saturday and reassembled it at the police headquarters where experts are conducting checks.
The Transport Ministry has said that the police also searched the home of Zaharie’s co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, on the same day.
Also on Saturday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said MH370 was diverted deliberately after someone on board switched off the Boeing 777’s communications systems.
He said investigations were now being refocused at the crew and passengers aboard the plane.
After MH370 disappeared from civilian radar in the early hours of March 8, the plane was flown westward from its intended path to Beijing, turning around at Checkpoint Igari in the South China Sea.
From there, it flew on to Checkpoint Vampi, northeast of Indonesia’s Aceh province and a navigational point used for planes following route N571 to the Middle East.
Subsequent plots indicate the plane flew towards Checkpoint Gival, south of the Thai island of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards another checkpoint, Igrex, used for route P628 that would take it over the Andaman Islands and which carriers use to fly towards Europe.
The complexity involved led aviation experts to set their sights on the pilots and crew.