A forensic examination showed the pilot of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 conducted a flight simulation on his home computer that closely matched the suspected route of the missing aircraft, according to a confidential report obtained by New York magazine.
The confidential document from the Malaysian police investigation into the disappearance of the aircraft showed that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, conducted a simulated flight deep into the remote southern Indian Ocean less than a month before the plane vanished under uncannily similar circumstances, the New York magazine said citing the report issued on Friday.
The revelation, which Malaysia withheld from a lengthy public report on the investigation, is the strongest evidence yet that Zaharie made off with the plane in a premeditated act of mass murder-suicide.
The document presented the findings of the Malaysian police’s investigation into Zaharie. It revealed that after the plane disappeared in March 2014, Malaysia turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hard drives that Zaharie used to record sessions on an elaborate home-built flight simulator.
The FBI was able to recover six deleted data points that had been stored by the Microsoft Flight Simulator X programme in the weeks before MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, the New York magazine quoted the document as saying.
Each point recorded the airplane’s altitude, speed, direction of flight, and other key parameters at a given moment.
According to the document, these points showed a flight that departs Kuala Lumpur, heads northwest over the Malacca Strait, then turns left and heads south over the Indian Ocean, continuing until fuel exhaustion over an empty stretch of sea, the magazine said.
Search officials believed that MH370 followed a similar route, based on signals the plane transmitted to a satellite after ceasing communications and turning off course. The actual and the simulated flights were not identical, though, with the simulated endpoint some 900 miles from the remote patch of southern ocean area where officials believe the plane went down, the document noted.
Rumours have long circulated that the FBI had discovered such evidence, but Malaysian officials made no mention of the find in the otherwise detailed report into the investigation, “Factual Information,” that was released on the first anniversary of the disappearance, it added.
From the beginning, Zaharie has been a primary suspect, but until now no hard evidence implicating him has emerged.
Zaharie, had been a pilot with Malaysia Airlines since 1981. He was a captain on the 777 for more than 15 years, CNN reported.
He was exceptionally experienced — a training captain who was paired with 27-year-old first officer Fariq Ab Hamid.
Hamid was transitioning to the 777 fleet and MH370 was one of his first flights in that aircraft.
On Friday, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China said the search of the ill-fated would be suspended but not end “in the absence of credible new evidence leading to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft,” CNN added.