Malaysiakini NEWS

Diverted MH370 path never used by pilots before

Nigel Aw  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Neither the pilot nor co-pilot of the missing Flight MH370 had any experience flying on areas which are now subject to search and rescue operations.
 
"None," Malaysia Airlines chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told journalists at the daily briefing for MH370 when queried about the pilot's and co-pilot's experience using the new route which diverted from the KLIA-Beijing route.
 
"As far as pilots are concerned, looking at the northern corridor, we do not fly there at all as a commercial airline.
 
"(For) the southern corridor, unless you fly to these islands, (but) we don't fly to any of these islands," he said at Sama-Sama Hotel, KL International Airport.
 
Based on satellite data, an international investigation team had established that the aircraft's last position could have been either in what is now known as a "northern corridor" which ranges from the northern Thai border to the borders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan or the "souhern corridor" which ranges from Indonesia to South of the Indian Ocean.
 
The plane had at 1.30am on March 8 lost communication over the Gulf of Thailand and later detected by military and satellite data flying westwards, possibly for several hours, away from its destination.
 
Unfamiliar route
 
MAS' confirmation today indicate that pilot Zaharie Ahmah Shah or co-pilot Fariq Ab Hamid were flying on an unfamiliar route, if they were indeed the ones in control of the cockpit when communications with air traffic controllers were lost.
 
But MAS' official routes are not necessarily a measure of the pilots' real experience, as a Berita Harian report today quoted unnamed investigators saying Zaharie's flight simulator at home had five airstrips which he could practice on, including one which sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
 
While the other four airstrips in the simulator are situated in India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, countries where MAS flies to, the British territory of Diego Garcia, located in the central Indian Ocean, is an exception.
 
Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein who was present at the press conference refused to confirm if these airstrips did indeed exist in the simulator, instead asked journalists quiz the police.
 
The aberration raises legitimate questions but does not necessarily suggest something devious, as it could also just be an innocent fascination of an aviation enthusiast with over 18,000 flight hours.
 
No one else could fly
 
Investigations to date showed none of the other 237 passengers knew how to fly an aircraft, at least officially, if the international intelligence agencies are correct. 
 
"None of the passengers have pilot background," said Jauhari.
 
This fact, coupled with a New York Times report quoting US investigators that Flight MH370 was reprogrammed to be diverted, something only doable by experienced individuals, meant that the spotlight remains on Zaharie and Fariq.
 
"Instead of manually operating the plane's controls, whoever altered Flight MH370's path typed seven or eight keystrokes into a computer on a knee-high pedestal between the captain and the first officer," the report said.
 
Responding to the report, Jauhari said this "could be speculation", but did not put the speculation to rest as he added that "anything is possible in the aircraft" when asked if it was plausible for Flight MH370's original KLIA-Beijing route to be reprogrammed.

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