MH370 captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah came under scrutiny after the plane’s disappearance – and something that raised suspicions was wiped data on his flight simulator, a documentary has revealed.
Malaysia Airlines flight 370 went missing on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. The Boeing 777 is still missing to this day and exactly what happened to it is still a mystery. However, the official investigation concluded that the most likely final destination was at the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean.
This was worked out from data – called pingrings – sent from the plane to a satellite owned by British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat.
The data seemed to indicate a flight path that saw the plane turn 180 degrees from its planned route, fly up the Malacca Strait and then southwards over the Indian Ocean.
In the weeks after the plane went missing, attention was naturally focused on the crew, including Mr Shah, MH370’s pilot – as well as his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid.
According to Channel 5’s ‘Flight MH370’, when investigating Mr Shah’s home flight simulator they discovered some deleted data that “raised suspicions”.
David Gleave, an aviation expert from Loughborough University, told Channel 5: “The hard disc contained some wiped data that was rebuilt and showed a number of simulations of flights going off to some rather remote locations in the southern Indian Ocean.”
The simulations show a number of waypoints – computer-checked coordinates for each stage of a flight – for each “practice run” on the simulator.
Mr Gleave added: “The forensic report detailed seven points that the captain has made up himself and programmed into the flight simulator.
“Four of these are in the Andaman Sea, which represents the body of water just to the left of Malaysia that we know the aeroplane flew over.
“The fifth point is to the north of Indonesia, which is in the same general area where we know the aeroplane turned and suddenly headed off into the ocean.
“And then there are two waypoints west of Perth off Australia in the Indian Ocean.”
These seven waypoints indicate a flight path similar to that MH370 is believed to have taken.
Some have suggested that this was a “dry run” for the pilot, as they were used less than a month before MH370’s disappearance.
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However, police retrieved almost 3,000 coordinates from different files and it could be just a coincidence that some of these, when connected together, had similarities to the believed flight path of MH370.
Mr Shah was an aviation fanatic and used his flight simulator a lot, flew many different paths and so it is not inconceivable that all this does not mean anything.
Mr Gleave was relatively dismissive of those jumping on this as evidence or even proof of the captain’s guilt, labelling it as a conspiracy theory.
He said: “The conspiracy theories are out there to say ‘This is the captain practicing beforehand for this type of flight.’
“All sorts of different reasons could be speculated upon, but we really do need to raise the aeroplane to start finding out whether it was indeed the captain who actually carried out these actions.”
Mr Gleave here is referring to the black boxes, which contain flight recorders.
These are the key to finding out exactly what happened to MH370 but five years after its disappearance it is becoming increasingly unlikely that they will ever be found.
That said, those who blame Mr Shah for the tragedy have pointed to the reported fact that he was suffering with mental health problems and issues in his marriage.
He was also a supporter of Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was arrested hours before the doomed flight.
While Mr Shah is in the spotlight on this theory, other people have pointed the finger at the co-pilot, other crew members, passengers, stowaways, people on the ground and machines, as well as others suggesting it was a technical malfunction.
For example, one theory is that an oxygen bottle burst and rendered the passengers unconscious or started a fire.