Saturday 3 December 2016

Australia: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 captain had Indian Ocean route on simulator

Published 28/07/2016 | 06:32

Australia has confirmed that the captain of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had an Indian Ocean course plotted on his personal simulator (AP)
Australia has confirmed that the captain of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had an Indian Ocean course plotted on his personal simulator (AP)

Data recovered from a home flight simulator owned by the captain of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 showed that someone used the device to plot a course to the southern Indian Ocean, where the missing jet is believed to have crashed, Australian officials have said.

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Confusion has reigned over what was found on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's flight simulator since New York Magazine reported last week that an FBI analysis showed he had conducted a simulated flight to the southern Indian Ocean less than a month before the plane vanished along a similar route.

Malaysia rejected the report as false, but Australia's Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre confirmed on Thursday that the captain's simulator did indeed show that "someone had plotted a course to the southern Indian Ocean".

The Boeing 777 vanished with 239 people on board after flying far off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, on March 8 2014.

The sole of a shoe found by Blaine Gibson on Riake beach in Madagascar, which may or may not belong to passengers of the MH370 Malaysia Airlines flight
The sole of a shoe found by Blaine Gibson on Riake beach in Madagascar, which may or may not belong to passengers of the MH370 Malaysia Airlines flight

New York Magazine cited the discovery as strong evidence that the disappearance was a premeditated act of mass murder-suicide at the hands of the captain.

But Malaysia's national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said police had never handed any document or information to any authority abroad, including the FBI - a perplexing statement, given that Malaysia's own transport minister confirmed two years ago that Malaysia was working with the FBI to analyse data from the simulator's hard drives.

Adding to the confusion, the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, which is overseeing the search for the plane off Australia's west coast, subsequently issued a vague statement that seemed to imply such a route had been found on Capt Zaharie's machine.

The agency then warned that evidence of the route did not prove that he had planned to steer the plane off course and showed only "the possibility of planning" for such an event.

Pressed for clarification, the agency confirmed in an email to The Associated Press news agency on Thursday that the captain's simulator did show that "someone had plotted a course to the southern Indian Ocean".

The confirmation appears to directly contradict repeated assertions from Malaysian officials that no such route had been found on the captain's simulator. On Wednesday transport minister Liow Tiong Lai insisted there was no evidence to prove that Capt Zaharie had plotted the same course as the doomed airliner into the machine.

A relative (woman in white) of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she talks on her mobile phone at the Beijing Capital International Airport March 8, 2014. TREUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A relative (woman in white) of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she talks on her mobile phone at the Beijing Capital International Airport March 8, 2014. TREUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The arrival board at the International Airport in Beijing shows a Malaysian airliner is delayed (AP)
A relative of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaks to journalists at a hotel in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee
A Malaysia Airlines spokesman (C) speaks to journalists regarding information about Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, during a news conference at a hotel in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Journalists take pictures and videos of a relative (C) of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at a hotel in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Malaysian Airlines Group Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahyain speaks during a press conference at a hotel in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur (AP)
A staff member at the Malaysian Airlines' office in Beijing's International Airport reacts to journalists in Beijing (AP)
Journalists wait in a conference room for a news conference regarding the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at a hotel in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee
A boy looks at a Malaysian Airlines plane from the viewing gallery of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, in this file picture. A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew lost contact with air traffic controllers early on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the airline said in a statement. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad/Files
Family members of those onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight walk into the waiting area at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said
A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries, surrounded by journalists, at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Family members of those onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight walk into the waiting area at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said
A woman cries at the arrival hall of the International Airport in Beijing, China, Saturday, March 8, 2014. Relatives and friends were arriving at Beijing airport for news after a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 was reported missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing Saturday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Relatives and friends, center, of passengers aboard a missing plane, are surrounded by media as they arrive at a hotel in Beijing, China Saturday, March 8, 2014. A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact over the South China Sea early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn't located the jetliner several hours later. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A woman in tears is helped by airport workers to a bus waiting for relatives of the missing Malaysian airliner at the international airport in Beijing, China, Saturday, March 8, 2014. A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact over the South China Sea early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn't located the jetliner several hours later. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Earlier this week Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to offer any details on what evidence had been found on the simulator, saying it was a matter for Malaysia, which is leading the investigation into the missing plane.

"I just note that even if the simulator information does show that it is possible or very likely that the captain planned this shocking event, it does not tell us the location of the aircraft," Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Officials have been stumped in their efforts to explain why the plane veered so far off course. Theories have ranged from a deliberate murder-suicide plot by one of the pilots to a hijacking and a mechanical catastrophe.

Similarly, search crews have been unable to find the main wreckage of the plane despite a sweeping underwater hunt of a remote stretch of ocean off Australia's west coast.

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephanie Went keeps watch for any sign of debris aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephanie Went keeps watch for any sign of debris aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Crewmen on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion Rescue Flight 795 search for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in southern Indian Ocean, 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) northwest of Perth, Australia
A crew member aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft prepares to launch a smoke canister to mark the position of an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean during the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
A crewman on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion Rescue Flight 795 searches for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, in southern Indian Ocean
The Bluefin 21, the Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
The Bluefin 21, the Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
A worker lowers from the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) towed pinger locator into the ocean during operational testing in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba crashes through a wave as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 4, 2014. Malaysia's prime minister visited the Australian search base for missing Flight MH370 on Thursday as a nuclear-powered submarine joined the near-four week hunt that has so far failed to find any sign of the missing airliner and the 239 people on board. REUTERS/Australian Defence Force/Handout (MID-SEA - Tags: MILITARY TRANSPORT DISASTER) MARITIME) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Australian Navy ships the HMAS Success (top) and the HMAS Toowoomba rendezvous to conduct a Replenishment at Sea evolution as they continue the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Australian Navy ships the HMAS Success (L) and the HMAS Toowoomba rendezvous to conduct a Replenishment at Sea evolution as they continue the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Tiger75, an S-70B-2 Seahawk, launches from the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Leading Seaman Aircrewman Joel Young looks out from Tiger75, an S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter, after it launched from the Australian Navy ship the HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
The Bluefin 21, the Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), is hoisted back on board the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after a successful buoyancy test in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
The Australian navy ship Ocean Shield lies docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with a towed pinger locator to aid in her roll in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia.
A Towed Pinger Locator (TPL), used to detect black box recorders, sits on the wharf at naval base HMAS Stirling in Perth, Australia, ready to be fitted to the Australian warship Ocean Shield to aid in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370
Chinese relatives of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 leave after a meeting at the Holiday Villa in Subang Jaya
Chinese relatives of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 leave after a news conference at The Holiday Villa in Subang Jaya
A ground crewman guides a RAAF AP-3C Orion along the tarmac as it returns from the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia. Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday he was hopeful clues will emerge soon to help find Flight 370 even though searchers again failed to find jet debris, as relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane protested in Malaysia to demand the government apologize over its handling of the search. AP
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott greets leaders of international forces being used to locate Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean (AP)
Australian Defense ship Ocean Shield is docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and towed pinger locator to aid in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370
Malaysian PM Najib Razak, centre, and Australia's PM Tony Abbott greet RAAF crew involved in the search for MH370 in Perth, Australia (AP)
A Korean Air Force P3 Orion returns from the search operation for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (AP)

Last week officials from Malaysia, Australia and China announced that the underwater search would be suspended once the current search area had been completely scoured.

Crews have fewer than 3,900 square miles left to scan of the 46,300-square-mile search area and should finish their sweep of the region by the end of the year.

AP

Press Association

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