In the two years since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared, there has been a continuous search in the Indian Ocean area for the Boeing 777 plane. But, newly revealed information, based on flight simulator data similar to what was used by the Sept. 11 terrorists, suggests that areas targeted for the search for the fateful flight have been off.
“New York” magazine reported Friday that they obtained a confidential document from Malaysian police about the investigation into the fate of the flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur that disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people onboard. The document reportedly showed that the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, used flight simulator software to “practice” a flight that veered into the remote southern parts of the Indian Ocean weeks before the plane vanished under similar circumstances.
The magazine revealed that, shortly after the disappearance, Malaysian authorities gave the hard drives that Zaharie used to record during sessions by the Microsoft Flight Simulator program to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to study. Since then, the FBI recovered six deleted data points from the weeks before MH370 disappeared that show a flight path that veered into the southern Indian Ocean that could be the path used. This presents strong evidence yet that Zaharie planned the flight as a premeditated mass murder-suicide act.
Several reports have linked other uses of the Microsoft flight simulator “game” to terrorist training. For example, the Sept. 11 perpetrators reportedly trained with flight simulators to study the controls of larger aircraft and the airports and routes being considered. It was widely rumored that they used the Microsoft software available at the time, which included the World Trade Center and other New York landmarks.
Since MH370 disappeared, several experts have expressed theories about what transpired. They include piloting scenarios as to whether one, both or neither were in control when the plane presumably hit the water. Investigators are pretty sure someone deliberately turned off the plane’s transponder before diverting the flight off course.
From the onset, Zaharie has been a primary suspect. However, there were no indications in his life of family stress, radical influences, or other impetuses of someone planning to become a mass murderer, until the flight simulator data was recovered.
Debris from the flight has washed up on various western Indian Ocean beaches, giving credence to theories that it crashed into the water. Searchers have combed parts of over 120,000 square kilometers of ocean off Western Australia for two years, but the flight simulator data implies that the searchers probably searched in the wrong area. The simulated endpoint was approximately 900 miles from the remote patch where officials have long believed the plane went down after running out of fuel exhaustion. However, If the flight was manned at that point, it could have glided further for a while. So, even using the data from the simulator does not put those conducting the searching any closer to finding the lost airplane.
With endless end-of-flight scenarios to consider and countless miles of ocean covered already, authorities involved in the search have indicated they might call of the fruitless quest soon. If they do call off the search for MH370, and make available all data they know about the fateful flight and newly revealed info on possible paths, there could be a collaborative public attempt from rival companies to try to find the plane. This would be similar to solutions used by people searching for sunken ships (and their treasures).
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
NY Magazine: Exclusive: MH370 Pilot Flew a Suicide Route on His Home Simulator Closely Matching Final Flight
Reuters: MH370 search team raises prospect plane could lie elsewhere
Daily Mail: The flight software that ‘trains the terrorists”
Photo of MH370 from 2011 courtesy of Laurent ERRERA from L’Union, France – Creative Commons license.