The investigating team have found five runways of at least 1000m in length on a simulator taken away from the home of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, local newspaper Berita Harian has reported.
The five runways are Diego Garcia, Male (Maldives), Sri Lanka and two in India, said the Malay-language news portal, citing sources.
Of course this may not mean anything beyond mere curiousity about more exotic runways.
Speculation and conspiracy theories had earlier swirled that the plane may have approached the secretive major US base at Diego Garcia, which lies 2100 miles west of the peninsula and close to the location of the overhead satellite that last pinged the flight. As the theories persisted, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein denied a couple of days ago that the plane had landed there.
Diego Garcia was occupied by the British after it evicted native islanders into destitution in the 1970s. The British then allowed US forces to use the territory, turning it into one of the most strategically important and secretive bases outside the United States (Princeton University Press). The facility was used as a key staging post for US bombing raids against Iraq and Afghanistan and for two secret CIA “extraordinary rendition” flights carrying terrorist suspects in 2002 (The Independent).
This is the Berita Harian report:
5 LANDASAN DALAM SIMULATOR DISIASAT
2014/03/18 – 05:42:07 AM
Lapangan terbang di Maldives, Diego Garcia, tiga di India dan Sri Lanka ditemui
Kuala Lumpur: Pasukan penyiasat menemui perisian lima landasan sekitar Lautan Hindi dalam program simulator Kapten Zaharie Ahmad Shah yang diambil dari rumahnya, di Shah Alam pada Sabtu lalu.
Menurut sumber, walaupun terlalu awal untuk membuat rumusan, penyiasatan mengambil kira penemuan itu sebagai satu daripada elemen siasatan berhubung kehilangan pesawat MH370 yang dipandu oleh Zaharie.
“Antara perisian landasan yang diperiksa setakat ini ialah Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Male di Maldives, sebuah lapangan terbang milik Amerika Syarikat (Diego Garcia) serta tiga lagi landasan di India dan Sri Lanka, yang semuanya mempunyai jarak landasan 1,000 meter.”
It must be noted that Berita Harian is closely linked to the ruling establishment in Malaysia and thus usually adopts a pro-establishment slant.
Were there other runways on the simulator apart from these five around the Indian Ocean?
It is not clear whether radar on Diego Garcia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka spotted the plane. What is the range of the radar at Diego Garcia, which surely must have powerful surveillance equipment? And has it made available its radar and other logs to the search-and-rescue teams? (I heard one journalist asking a question along these lines at the 5.30pm press briefing over television yesterday. But I couldn’t hear Hishammuddin’s response as CNN came up with a voice-over.)
At this point, we need to question everything and accept nothing at face value.