Investigators are poring over a state-of-the-art flight simulator built by one of the pilots of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in a search for clues about the plane's disappearance.
With the revelation last week that the plane may have been diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled flight path from Kuala Lumpar to Beijing by a skilled aviator, investigators are focusing on the backgrounds and interests of its two pilots, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.
Last week, a state-of-the art-flight simulator was seized from Zaharie's home in an upscale neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur, and investigators are examining the Microsoft X-plane 10 game he played, which would have allowed him to practise flying in a range of circumstances and weather conditions.
"Looking through the flight logs in these simulator games is a key part of the investigation," an official close to the investigation told Reuters.
"X-plane 10 was interesting to investigators because it was the latest thing Zaharie bought. Also it is the most advanced out there and had all sorts of emergency and combat scenarios."
The software would have allowed him to practise landing at more than 33,000 airports, on aircraft carriers, oil rigs, frigates, which pitch and roll with the waves, and heli-pads atop buildings.
The simulator also had software to replicate different weather conditions, and to allow him to play with other people online.
It has a motion controller that makes the chair pitch and turn like to simulate the climbs, descents and turns of a real plane. Zaharie's set-up also included a centre pedestal, where aircraft controls sit, and overhead panel.
The Malaysian team has also asked the FBI for help recovering data deleted from a memory stick on 3 February.
In an online forum, Zaharie described his new simulator as "awesome" and declared it his "passion".
There is currently no evidence that Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, was responsible for the plane and its 227 passengers and 10 crew vanishing.
Those who helped Zaharie construct the simulator said many pilots enjoy flying so much they have a simulator at home.
"Many pilots contact me interested in making 'home' simulators. Zaharie along with some others pilots actually used my motion controllers to upgrade the realism of their simulators by building motion platforms," Thanos Kontogiannis, a California-based aviation enthusiast who helped Zaharie build the simulator, posted on his blog on Monday.
Aviation experts contacted by Reuters said that the data on the simulator may have been erased as part of regular maintenance, or to improve the simulator's performance.
However Nunez Correas, a simulation software developer using some of the same components as Zaharie, said that storage capacity was not a problem for computers running flight simulators, and there was no clear reason to delete data.