UPDATE: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Officials Say Plane's Route Changed Via Computer Program Run By Someone In Cockpit; Police Find Indian Ocean Runways On Pilot's Simulator

 @SnehaShankar30
on March 18 2014 1:11 AM
Missing MH370
Residents of Boeung Kak Lake light candles to spell "MH370" during a Buddhist ceremony, praying for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370, in Phnom Penh on March 17, 2014. Reuters/Samrang Pring

Update as of 12:20 a.m. EST: The Malay Mail Online, citing a local news source, Berita Harian, reported Tuesday that authorities investigating the flight simulator found in the home of Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the captain of the missing Flight MH370, had found five practice runways located in the Indian Ocean.

“The simulation programmes are based on runways at the Male International Airport in Maldives, an airport owned by the United States (Diego Garcia), and three other runways in India and Sri Lanka, all have runway lengths of 1,000 metres (3,300 feet)," the source reportedly said, adding: “We are not discounting the possibility that the plane landed on a runway that might not be heavily monitored, in addition to the theories that the plane landed on sea, in the hills, or in an open space.”

The report added that Malaysia's defense minister had denied reports Monday that the plane had landed at Diego Garcia but cited the source as saying that it was one of the possibilities that would be investigated. According to an American Airlines pilot quoted in Slate magazine last week, a Boeing 777 -- the class of plane that has gone missing -- needs at least 5,000 feet of runway to land, but the plane could also come down on a stretch of highway or a stretch of road made of hard-packed dirt.

 

Senior U.S. officials said Monday that the first diversion that the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 made toward the west before it went missing on March 8 was initiated by someone from inside the cockpit through a computer program, the New York Times reported.

Citing senior American officials involved in the investigation of the missing plane, the Times reported that a person inside the cockpit typed several keystrokes into the plane's computer between the captain and the first officer. This computer directs the plane from one point to another according to the flight plan, which is submitted before take-off. But, it is still not clear if the plane’s flight plan was reprogrammed before it left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board.

On Monday, officials reportedly began investigating the backgrounds of the plane's captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed Saturday that the plane's onboard communication systems had been deliberately turned off, pointing to foul play. Malaysian authorities also intensified their search into a 29-year-old passenger on Flight MH370, Mohamad Khairul Amri Selamat, an aviation engineer who reportedly worked with a private jet charter company and had technical knowledge of the plane's workings.

Despite 25 countries searching two corridors -- one extending from Northern Thailand to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and another from Indonesia to the Indian Ocean -- there have been no physical clues so far of the plane's whereabouts.

“If it’s gone off into the Indian Ocean somewhere, there’s a good chance you’ll never find it,” said Paul Hayes, director of aviation security at Ascend Worldwide, according to Bloomberg. “It’s the first aircraft that’s ever disappeared like this with no suggestion of a motive, with nobody claiming responsibility. With other hijacked aircraft, you knew they were hijacked.”

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