PUTRAJAYA - The pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 jetliner had plotted a route to the Indian Ocean on his personal flight simulator, Malaysia's transport minister said, in the first acknowledgement by the government that the simulator had contained such a path.
But Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that the plotted flight path into the Indian Ocean by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah is just one of "thousands" of routes on his home simulator.
"Yes, he had simulated the flight path, but it is one of thousands of simulations to many parts of the world. We cannot, just based on this, confirm he did it," Malaysia's The Star newspaper reported him as saying.
He also said that the finding does not confirm that the pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft into the sea.
"Until today, this theory is still under investigation. There is still no evidence to confirm that Captain Zaharie deliberately flew the plane into the Indian Ocean," he told reporters at a press conference in Putrajaya on Thursday.
The aircraft, with 239 passengers and crew on board, was on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact with air traffic controllers. Using satellite data, authorities concluded that the plane changed its course and landed in the ocean off the coast of Perth when it ultimately ran out of fuel.
Liow said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's (ATSB) stance was that the crash was an "uncontrolled ditching".
"The ATSB has already come up with a theory that it was an uncontrolled ditching. And this is based on views and opinions of experts. The ATSB is the leader of the team of international experts that came up with the 120,000 sq km search area," he said. "Their theory should negate the controlled ditching theory that has been widely reported recently," said Liow.
He was referring to media reports which suggested that Capt Zaharie had piloted the Boeing 777 in its final moments, contradicting the common official stance that the jet was uncontrolled when it crashed.
A leading air crash expert said last week the plane was likely to have been in controlled flight as it hit the water, giving support to the theory that the plane was brought down by a rogue pilot or hijacker. Canadian air crash expert Larry Vance said there was no other way to explain why a wing section called a flaperon, found off the coast of Madagascar a year ago, was "extended", meaning it would have been in controlled flight as it hit the water.
Liow also urged people not to make speculations that could hamper investigations.
"It is not wise to speculate or make unfounded theories that do not help the investigation. If you have evidence, please hand it over to the investigation team," he said.
Malaysia, China and Australia said on July 22 they will suspend the deep-sea operation to hunt for the plane after the current search completes later this year, but will resume it if new evidence is found.