19 March 2014
The UK Telegraph reports – Missing Malaysia Airlines plane may have been spotted over the Maldive Islands, it has emerged
The global hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight has shifted to a tiny island in the Maldives, where residents spotted a “low flying jumbo jet” hours after the aircraft disappeared.
Several witnesses in Dhaalu Atoll saw a plane heading south that bore the red stripe and white background of Malaysia Airlines planes.
The sightings, reported by a local news outlet, would have occurred more than seven hours after the plane, carrying 12 crew and 227 mainly Chinese passengers, lost contact with air traffic control and took its sudden westward turn during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of Saturday March 8.
“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly,” said an witness.
“It’s not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too.” The chances of another aircraft of that size flying over the island at the time were, according to Maldives sources, very low.
Though authorities are yet to confirm the sighting, the plane’s pilot, Captain Zaharie Shah, is believed to have practised landing at Male International Airport in the Maldives on a three-screen flight simulator at his home. The machine has been seized by police.
A report in a Malay language newspaper, Berita Harian, claimed Capt Zaharie also practised at three airports in India and Sri Lanka and a runway at the US military base on Diego Garcia.
Police would not confirm the details about the flight simulator.
However, Peter Chong, a friend of the pilot, insisted that there was nothing suspicious about the simulator and that Capt Zaharie invited many of his friends to use it. “He was not hiding it, he was open about it,” Mr Chong said. “He loves flying. He wanted to share the joy of flying with his friends.”
Capt Zaharie, a 53-year-old father of three, and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, a 27-year-old who was planning to marry his 26-year-old pilot girlfriend, Nadira Ramli, have been described by friends and family as flying enthusiasts who had no known links to extremism or psychological problems.
Authorities in Malaysia have confirmed that they believe the flight was deliberately interfered with and that its communications system intentionally disabled before the plane flew “invisible” for a further seven to eight hours.