With no official trace of the missing plane yet revealed, the investigation, which as we reported over the weekend has focused on the pilots and specifically on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, earlier today revealed that on his home-made flight simulator had been loaded five Indian Ocean practice runways, among which those of Male in the Maldives, that of the US owned base at Sergio Garcia, as well as other runways in India and Sri Lanka – all notable runways as all are possible landing spots based on the flight’s potential trajectories. The Malay Mail Online reported, “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.”
“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 source was quoted as saying.
At this point the facts in the case are about as sketchy as any “data” on US Treasury holdings, but here is what was said on the record:
“Although Malay Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein denied yesterday that the plane had landed at US military base Diego Garcia, the source told the daily that this possibility will still be investigated based on the data found in Zaharie’s flight simulator software. The police had seized the flight simulator from the 53-year-old pilot’s house in Shah Alam on Saturday and reassembled it at the police headquarters where experts are conducting checks.”
Previous reports indicated that the plane flew towards Checkpoint Gival, south of the Thai island of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards another checkpoint, Igrex, used for route P628 that would take it over the Andaman Islands and which carriers use to fly towards Europe.
Still, the Maldives news is of particular note since earlier today, Haaveru Online, quoted locals who said they had seen a “low flying jet” whose description is approximate to what flight MH370 looked like. From the source:
Whilst the disappearance of the Boeing 777 jet, carrying 239 passengers has left the whole world in bewilderment, several residents of Kuda Huvadhoo told Haveeru on Tuesday that they saw a “low flying jumbo jet” at around 6:15am on March 8.
They said that it was a white aircraft, with red stripes across it – which is what the Malaysia Airlines flights typically look like.
Eyewitnesses from the Kuda Huvadhoo concurred that the aeroplane was travelling North to South-East, towards the Southern tip of the Maldives – Addu. They also noted the incredibly loud noise that the flight made when it flew over the island.
“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly,” said an eyewitness.
“It’s not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too.” […] A local aviation expert told Haveeru that it is “likely” for MH370 to have flown over the Maldives. The possibility of any aircraft flying over the island at the reported time is extremely low, the expert added.
So did the pilot hijack the plane, reprogram the flight path, turn off the transponder, and fly low above the surface and below radar all the way to the Maldives, or alternatively, US airbase, Diego Garcia, where Captain Shah promptly offloaded 20+ tons of still unknown cargo? Some experts opine on just this, by way of the Telegraph:
If the Maldive lead turns out to be a strong one, then the next question is: could the plane conceivably have flown to Somalia? Or somewhere in the southern Arabian peninsula or Iran? Somalia seems a much more likely destination for a hijacker with its known al-Qaeda connections.
Kaminski Morrow adds:
- The plane, a Boeing 777-200, was capable of traveling as far as the Maldives
- Male is the main airport but the sighting appears to have come from an atoll a long way south
- Commercial aircraft-tracking software, while not always reliable, doesn’t seem to show any other nearby traffic with which a sighting might have been confused
It is all hugely, hugely tentative – and I wouldn’t want to vouch for the newspaper which is the source of this information.
But theoretically it could be possible.
The vital detail is the fuel; Malaysia Airlines has not said how much fuel was on board, other than to say “enough for the trip to Beijing”.
Therefore we can’t tell if that was enough to loop around and make it back to the Maldives.
So far there have been few firm theories about MH370 having landed on the US airbase in the middle of the Indian Ocean, some 800 miles south of Male in the Maldives.