New York has obtained a confidential document from the Malaysian police investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that shows that the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, conducted a simulated flight deep into the remote southern Indian Ocean less than a month before the plane vanished under uncannily similar circumstances. 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 presents the findings of the Malaysian police’s investigation into Zaharie. It reveals that after the plane disappeared in March of 2014, Malaysia turned over to the 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 program in the weeks before MH370 disappeared, according to the document. Each point records the airplane’s altitude, speed, direction of flight, and other key parameters at a given moment. The document reads, in part:
Based on the Forensics Analysis conducted on the 5 HDDs obtained from the Flight Simulator from MH370 Pilot’s house, we found a flight path, that lead to the Southern Indian Ocean, among the numerous other flight paths charted on the Flight Simulator, that could be of interest, as contained in Table 2.
Taken together, these points show 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.
Search officials believe 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. Based on the data in the document, here’s a map of the simulated flight compared to the route searchers believe the lost airliner followed:
Rumors 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.
The credibility of the rumors was further undermined by the fact that many media accounts mentioned “a small runway on an unnamed island in the far southern Indian Ocean,” of which there are none.