Investigators probing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 piloted an identical Boeing 777-200 on the missing plane's suspected flight path, in a re-enactment confirming their belief that it banked west, a senior Malaysian military official said Sunday.
The revelation provided an insight into the lengths that international investigators who are aiding the Malaysian government are going to in probing the baffling mystery surrounding the fate of the plane.
The re-enactment, staged in recent days, was aimed at determining whether the radar and satellite data that it generated matches up with data on MH370's flight.
"The idea of the flight was to find out the possible direction the missing plane could have gone," the official, who is closely involved in the investigation, told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The official said the new findings generated data identical to that which is believed to show the missing airliner turned from its intended flight path across the South China Sea, doubled back across Malaysia, and then veered northwest toward the Andaman Sea.
The plane was flown on the same course, including zig-zag moves possibly intended to avoid civilian radar.
"The plane was flown exactly how the missing plane flew based on military radar data. It did a turn-around, flew across the Malaysian peninsula and up north," the official said.
"That is why we can conclusively say which two possible directions the plane flew and we have now refocused our search and rescue operations to these two new areas."
The now week-long search for the Boeing 777 jumbo jet initially focused on waters in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, where the plane disappeared from radar on March 8.
However, following an investigation, it was refocused Saturday after Malaysia's leader Najib Razak announced that data indicated the communications systems of MH370 were deliberately de-activated by someone aboard, and the jet diverted away from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight path.
Najib said search efforts would now be focused on one corridor stretching northwest from Malaysia to as far away as Kazakhstan and another reaching southwest toward the southern Indian Ocean.
Najib's revelations effectively ruled out earlier theories of a catastrophic mechanical failure or mid-air explosion, but raised the disturbing scenario of a potential hijack, attempted terror attack or rogue action by a member of the crew.
No firm leads have emerged yet to support any of those theories.
Asked about the new challenges in finding the plane as the search area widens, the official liked the effort to the logistical challenge of a moon mission.
"It is like going to the moon. The operation is going to be more challenging," the official said.