The flight computer on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was "manually overwritten", investigators have said.
The plane carrying 239 passengers and crew disappeared last week after diverting from its planned flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
It has since been discovered that the plane made several erratic course corrections which have led investigators to dramatically widen the "search corridors" where evidence of its fate could be found.
Above: Students stand next to a giant mural featuring missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
Search efforts are focused on two corridors - one stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and another from Indonesia to the Indian Ocean.
It is overwhelmingly likely that the plane ditched or broke up above the Pacific or Indian ocean, experts believe. But no remains of the aircraft have yet been found.
Now investigators say that they are sure the course adjustments made by the plane were manually programmed by someone in the plane's cockpit.
Specifically, it is thought that at least the first turn to the West that the plane took must have been carried out by someone knowledgeable of the Boeing 777-200ER system, or a similar plane.
The course change was not made via the flight controls, but input with seven or eight keystrokes into a computer between the captain and first officer.
The Flight Management System is used to direct the plane between waypoints on its journey. It is possible, officials said, that it was reprogrammed before the plane took off.
Rumours abounded after it emerged that the tickets for two passengers who used stolen passports to travel on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight were booked by an Iranian man known only as “Mr. Ali", according to the FT. But one of those travelling has been identified as a 19-year-old Iranian, almost definitely headed to Germany to seek asylum, with no links whatsoever to terror networks. Besides, it would be baffling as to why Iran would want to hijack a plane almost entirely compromised of Chinese passengers. China is a key ally of Iran.
It's a theory swirling only in the realm of the Twittersphere and Reddit, but HuffPost UK has had a number of emails asking us to investigate the theory, pointing out the jet did have enough fuel on board to reach the hermit nation (allegedly) and that the North Koreans do have form when it comes to plane hijacking. Again, it seems like an odd scheme when it would alienate Pyongyang's only international ally, China, and mainly hinges on the "but those North Koreans are crazy" school of thought.
This one is kinda understandable, because the 'Chinese Martyrs’ Brigade' claimed they were responsible for the attack in an email to Chinese media. The message read: "You kill one of our clan, we will kill 100 of you as pay back.” This is almost certainly a hoax to stir up trouble, in the aftermath of the Kunming train station massacre where 29 people were killed. Chinese officials blamed that on separatists from north-west China's Uighur Muslim minority.
This was touted on Chinese social media, Weibo, with pictures of the air passenger list showing one name scrubbed out, which netizens said was a "Uighur" name. But it's a hoax, the full air passenger list has been posted on Reddit, and it hasn't got a name scrubbed out. Easy one, that.
This one's made many mainstream newspaper outlets, and has a good basis in truth, relatives swear they have called the phones and heard them ring. Malaysian officials are investigating this, but at a press conference in Beijing, spokesman Ignatius Ong said one of the numbers that had been passed on to the airline's command office in Kuala Lumpur did not receive an answer. "I myself have called the number five times while the airline's command centre also called the number. We got no answering tone," said Ong.
This is one touted on Beforeitsnews.com, an "alternative" site big on stuff like UFOs, which reports: "It is conceivable that the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 plane is “cloaked,” hiding with hi-tech electronic warfare weaponry that exists and is used. In fact, this type of technology is precisely the expertise of [Texas-based company] Freescale, that has 20 employees on board the missing flight”. Again (there's a theme here) it doesn't say why.
Alright, not many people other than complete wack-jobs are posing this theory, but it's always worth an honourable mention. Nothing practical like, say, a motive, is given by those posing this on internet forums, apart from "evil Zionists do this kind of thing". Oh, and that the Israelis once cloned passports, so that's proof enough for The Rebel, who wrote: "The finding of the use on the Malaysian Airlines flight of stolen passports is essentially confirmatory of a Zionist plot." And that's, err, all they've got.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald the finding has refocused attention on the pilot or first officer, and raised greater suspicions of "foul play". US aviation experts have said it is wildly unlikely that a passenger could have reprogrammed the computer, despite speculation that the plane could have been "hacked", a theory proposed by a former Home Office official.
It is known that the flight MH370 reported its status to the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (Acars) after the reprogramming had taken place, but that system stopped functioning soon after.
Meanwhile the frustation of families and loved ones aboard MH370 has continued to escalate, with some reportedly threatening a hunger strike unless they are told the "truth" about the flight.