Clues Sought in Malaysian Airlines Pilot's Homemade Flight Simulator

Captain Zaharie Shah, 53, made his own flight simulator in his home.

ByABC News
March 17, 2014, 10:58 AM

March 17, 2014 — -- The search for clues into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines' flight MH370 has led investigators to confiscate a homemade flight simulator from the pilot's home and see if it reveals any useful information, authorities said.

The plane's captain Zaharie Shah built the Boeing 777-200 simulator himself.

“To be able to buy things off the counter and set up his own flight simulator. Something he’s proud of,” his friend Peter Chong told ABC News.

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ABC News aviation expert John Nance said that officials would be looking through the simulator data to see if the captain practiced maneuvers similar to those done by MH370 after it disappeared from radar.

They will also look for “Any indication that the simulator could practice anything untoward like practicing landing on small islands in the ocean,” Nance said.

Nance said it wasn’t unheard of for a pilot to own a simulator, although the fact that he built it himself was unique. Pilots often use a simulator to practice approaches and landings or possibly emergency procedures. A simulator can be helpful practice when switching plane models or practicing landings at different airports.

Allen Diehl, a former crash investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Bureau, said that it was unusual that Malaysian investigators appeared to wait a week before going to the homes of the pilot and co-pilot and to take in possible evidence.

“You’re going to go to the pilot's home and talk to the next of kin, you’re going to talk to friends who trained them, you’re going to move to check out the human aspect. That would have happened the next morning,” said Diehl of the NTSB's response to crashes.

Diehl said the fact that the pilot had the simulator was not alarming on its own and that it could have been used recreationally.