In the wake of reports that an FBI analysis of the simulator showed Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah simulated a flight with a similar path less than a month before the crash, there has been some dispute about the simulator’s significance. For some this revelation serves to confirm suspicions that the crash was a premeditated murder-suicide on Shah’s part.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre is overseeing a search for the plane’s remains off the west coast of Australia, and has confirmed that "someone had plotted a course to the southern Indian Ocean." In a previous statement, the agency said the data did not prove that the captain purposefully crashed the plane, but showed only the "the possibility of planning."
Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s national police chief, said on Thursday that the investigation will not be complete until the "black box," which contains a data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, is retrieved.
Bakar said, "We cannot confirm anything. Whatever findings now are not conclusive until we recover the black box which will tell us what actually happened… if not, everything else is speculative." When asked whether police had ruled out suicide, he responded, "I never rule out anything."
Even though Bakar claimed that Malaysian police have not given documents to foreign agencies such as the FBI, Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai, confirmed that Malay authorities and the FBI worked together to analyze data found on the simulator’s hard drives two years ago.
On Wednesday, Lai asserted that there was no evidence of Shah plotting the same course as MH370 on his flight simulator software.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did not offer any new details on what was found on the machine earlier this week, saying that it was Malaysia’s case to handle, since they were taking the lead on investigating the downed craft.
He told reporters, "I just note that even if the simulator information does show that it is possible or very likely that the captain planned this shocking event, it does not tell us the location of the aircraft."
Authorities have not been able to explain why the 239-passenger Boeing 777 veered from its course on March 8, 2014, on a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. It has been theorized that the cause of the crash could be a murder-suicide by one of the pilots, a mechanical error, or possibly a hijacking. Despite a wide-ranging search for the aircraft, no significant wreckage has been found.
Officials from China, Malaysia and Australia announced last week that the underwater search would be suspended once the current area being searched has been thoroughly explored. Fewer than 10,000 square kilometers are left to scan of the 120,000 square kilometer search area, and the sweep is expected to be completed by the end of the year.