Reports about Malaysia Flight 370’s captain using his home flight simulator to practice landing on a short runway on an island in the Indian Ocean led some to wonder whether the plane touched down on land — a theory that would explain the lack of wreckage in the ocean.
But airline pilot Patrick Smith, who wrote the book “Cockpit Confidential,” told Business Insider that the chances the captain was able to land safely somewhere and conceal a Boeing 777 for this long are “slim to none.”
“If the plane did land on an island, why can’t we find it? There aren’t that many possible landing points, and none of them are so remote that a 777 could simply sneak in and remain there unnoticed,” Smith told us via email. “I’d consider this an exceptionally unlikely possibility.”
The Sunday Times of London reported last week that the captain of the plane, pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is the prime suspect in the investigation if the plane’s disappearance was due to human intervention. Malaysia officials later denied that report, saying all possibilities are still being considered and nothing conclusive has been established yet.
One detail reported in The Times, however, could point to a plan to land the plane on an island in the Indian Ocean, the remote body of water where the plane is thought to have disappeared.
Investigators were reportedly able to recover deleted data from Shah’s home flight simulator that shows routes programmed into the machine that took a plane far out into the Indian Ocean and simulated landing a short runway on an island.
This might not be as suspicious as it seems, though.
Smith said that although it’s unusual for an airline pilot to have a simulator in his or her home, we shouldn’t read too much into Shah’s hobby.
“If I were going to practice on a home simulator? Chances are I’d opt for some unusual and challenging maneuvers that are impossible to practice in a real aircraft or training sim — such as landing on a small island, perhaps,” he said.
A new report from Australian authorities says the passengers and crew on board the plane, which disappeared in March, likely died from suffocation as the plane coasted over the ocean on autopilot before crashing.
It’s still unclear what could have caused that to happen, but it could have been anything from a bomb to a major pressurization malfunction on the aircraft.
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