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Stop focusing on the Iranians with fake passports, and look at the pilot

In this March 9, 2014 satellite image seen on the website of the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, floating objects are seen at sea next to the red arrow which was added by the source. China's Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday that the images show suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner floating off the southern tip of Vietnam. (AP Photo/Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense)

A lot of early Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 coverage focused on the two Iranian passengers who boarded with fake passports. But what about the pilot, the experienced captain at the helm of the plane?

Read one way - glass half-full - this Reuters profile from Sunday is a glowing homage to an expert pilot. 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah has been flying since 1981 and accrued 18,360 hours. "Airline staff who worked with the pilot said Zaharie knew the ins and outs of the Boeing 777 extremely well, as he was always practicing with the simulator" that was in his home, the article reveals.

A co-pilot is quoted as saying "he was an aviation tech geek. You could ask him anything and he would help you."

It sounds like the perfect pilot you'd want to have around if something goes wrong. But clearly something did go wrong - and what we know (or what we seem to know) is there were no distress signals sent, no indications from the cockpit that anything was wrong.

The last thing anyone heard was detailed here: "According to Malaysia’s civil aviation officials, the captain’s last words were made after Malaysian air traffic controllers told the cockpit that they were entering Vietnamese airspace and that air traffic controllers from Ho Chi Minh City were taking over."

When you look at it glass half-empty, questions start popping up. An experienced captain, with a flight simulator in his house, exits Malaysian airspace and immediately goes off the radar, transponder shut off, nothing else heard from passenger or crew. And yet, reports today indicate the plane may have flown for hours after. Where was it going?

On "Piers Morgan Live" last night, aviation expert Jim Tilmon was asked about the simulator. "If this pilot really had some plan in mind," said Tilmon. "He would need to practice, and he's got the equipment to do that."

Yesterday I laid out plausible theories, and one was "pilot intent." If the captain was intent on taking this plane and its passengers, essentially, hostage, and bringing it intact to another location while avoiding detection, he would seem to have just the skillset to accomplish this odd and dangerous task.

There are lots of great reporters investigating the story on the ground - let's find out more about the captain. He may be totally faultless here, but as questions persist, this is one angle to explore.

Have a theory about what happened to the missing plane? Tell me at @SteveKrak

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