Pilot's flight simulator focused on Indian Ocean

Last updated 18:43 18/03/2014
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A flight simulator taken from the home of a missing Malaysia Airlines pilot held software for five practice runaways scattered around the Indian Ocean, a Malaysian news outlet says.

Berita Harian reported a source as telling it that one airport was for a United States military base, while all five runways were of the same length.

"Among the software we checked so far is the Male International Airport in Maldives, three airports in India and Sri Lanka, and one belonging to the US military base in Diego Garcia. All have a runway length of 1000 metres," the source told the Malay daily.

A Boeing 777-200 needs a runway of 1600m to land, according to Boeing's website.

Police seized the simulator from Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house on Saturday. It was being checked at the federal police headquarters by experts.

Investigators are now conducting extensive background checks on all 239 people on board the plane, which mysteriously disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing 10 days ago.

The US has rejected claims it could have landed at their base on Diego Garcia, in the central Indian Ocean.

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.

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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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