KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian jet that vanished a week ago appears to have changed course and continued flying for hours, a senior Malaysian military official said Saturday, citing radar data indicating a "skilled, competent" pilot was at the controls.
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, the official cited Malaysian military radar data that investigators believe indicate the Boeing 777 may have radically changed course and headed northwest towards the Indian Ocean.
"It has to be a skilled, competent and a current pilot," the official said.
"He knew how to avoid the civilian radar. He appears to have studied how to avoid it."
The intended flight path for the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight was to be north over the South China Sea and Vietnam.
The new information, coupled with multiple corroborative but unconfirmed reports, suggests the investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was increasingly focusing on something going wrong in the cockpit.
Analysts have said that could include a sudden loss of cabin pressure or other mechanical event that incapacitated the pilots, catastrophic pilot error, or more sinister possibilities such as the plane being commandeered by a hijacker or rogue member of the flight crew, or pilot suicide.
All signs so far point to a "controlled, deliberate act, not a mechanical failure", said Scott Hamilton, managing director of US-based aviation consultancy Leeham Co.
The mounting reports of an unexplained banking to the west have coincided with a shift of search and rescue resources toward the Indian Ocean.