Missing plane's flight change 'programmed'

Last updated 16:03 18/03/2014
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MH370 MYSTERY: Explaining the missing Malaysia Airlines jet mystery, as it stands. | Click here for full-size graphic

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The first turn to the west that diverted the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from its planned flight path was programmed into the aircraft's computer, US officials say.

The New York Times has quoted unnamed "American officials and aviation experts" as saying someone knowledgeable about airplane systems typed seven or eight keystrokes into a computer to alter its Flight Management System.  That system directs the plane from point to point in the flight plan.

It is not clear whether the diversion to the flight path was programmed before or after it took off, the report said.

This scenario underlined the chance that foul play was involved in the plane's disappearance. Investigators are probing a number of theories about the plane's fate, including pilot suicide.

However,  John Cox, a former airline union safety official, told the Times someone carefully diverting the plane in such a manner differed from past cases of pilot murder-suicide, such as the SilkAir jet in Indonesia in 1997, when the plane was simply nosed down and flown into the water.

No trace of the Beijing-bound Boeing 777 has been found since it vanished about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8 with 227 passengers, including two New Zealanders, and 12 crew aboard.

The search has now been expanded deep into the northern and southern hemispheres. Australian vessels scoured the southern Indian Ocean and China offered 21 of its satellites to help Malaysia in the unprecedented hunt.

With no wreckage found in one of the most puzzling aviation mysteries of all time, relatives of those on the Boeing 777 have been left in an agonising limbo.

Investigators say the plane was deliberately diverted during its overnight flight and flew off-course for hours.

They haven't ruled out hijacking, sabotage, or pilot suicide, and they are checking the backgrounds of the passengers and crew members, as well as the ground crew, to see if links to terrorists, personal problems or psychological issues could be factors.

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