NEW YORK - The on-board flight computer on missing MAS flight MH370 was programmed to turn 12 minutes before co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid said "All right, good night".
NBC News, quoting sources, is reporting that the plane's abrupt u-turn was programmed into the on-board computer well before the co-pilot signed off with air traffic controllers.
A former National Transportation Safety Board crash investigator and NBC News analyst Greg Feith told the channel: "Some pilots programme an alternate flight plan in the event of an emergency.
"We don't know if this was an alternate plan to go back to Kuala Lumpur or if this was to take the plane from some place other than Beijing."
The revelation suggest that MH370's turnaround was planned and executed in the cockpit before controllers lost contact with the plane. This doesn't, however, suggest foul play.
The course of the flight was changed by entering navigational instructions into the Flight Management System (FMS).
NBC News quotes sources as claiming that whoever turned the plane around programmed the FMS.
"This would be a very elaborate scheme," and whoever did it would have needed "very, very extensive training to pull this off," Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot who few the Boeing 777 told the news channel.