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Malaysia, FBI probing data from Flight MH370 pilot's simulator



KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysian investigators - with the help of the FBI - are trying to restore files deleted last month from the home flight simulator of the pilot aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane to see if they shed any light on the disappearance, officials said Wednesday.

Files containing records of simulations carried out on the program were deleted Feb. 3 from the device found in the home of the Malaysia Airlines pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu said.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference that Zaharie is considered innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing, and that members of his family are cooperating in the investigation.

It was not immediately clear whether investigators thought that deleting the files was unusual. They will want to check those files for any signs of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name, said the FBI has been provided electronic data to analyze.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said U.S. investigators are prepared to help any way they can.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people aboard disappeared March 8 on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanations, but have said the evidence so far suggests the flight was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next and why.

Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of the plane about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, based on its last faint signal to a satellite - an hourly "handshake" signal that continues even when communications are switched off. The arcs stretch up as far as Kazakhstan in central Asia and down deep into the southern Indian Ocean.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, and have asked for background checks from abroad on all foreign passengers.

Hishammuddin said such checks have been received for all the foreigners except those from Ukraine and Russia - which account for three passengers. "So far, no information of significance on any passengers has been found," he said.

The 53-year-old pilot joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of flight experience. People who knew Zaharie from his involvement in opposition political circles in Malaysia and other areas of his life have described him as sociable, humble, caring and dedicated to his job.

The crisis has exposed the lack of a failsafe way of tracking modern passenger planes on which data transmission systems and transponders - which make them visible to civilian radar - have been severed. At enormous cost, 26 countries are helping Malaysia look for the plane.

Relatives of passengers on the missing airliner - two-thirds of them from China - have grown increasingly frustrated over the lack of progress in the search. Planes sweeping vast expanses of the Indian Ocean and satellites peering on Central Asia have turned up no new clues.

"It's really too much. I don't know why it is taking so long for so many people to find the plane. It's 12 days," Subaramaniam Gurusamy, 60, said in an interview from his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. His 34-year-old son, Pushpanathan Subramaniam, was on the flight heading to Beijing for a work trip.

"He's the one son I have," Subaramaniam said.

Before Wednesday's news briefing at a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur airport, two Chinese relatives of passengers held up a banner saying "Truth" in Chinese and started shouting before security personnel escorted them out.

"I want you to help me to find my son!" one of the two women said.

Hishamuddin said a delegation of Malaysian government officials, diplomats, air force and civil aviation officials will head to Beijing - where many of the passengers' relatives are gathered - to give briefings to the next of kin on the status of the search.

Aircraft from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand searched an area stretching across 305,000 square kilometers (117,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean, about 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) southwest of Perth, on Australia's west coast. Merchant ships were also asked to look for any trace of the plane.

China has said it was reviewing radar data and deployed 21 satellites to search the northern corridor, although it is considered less likely that the plane could have taken that route without being detected by military radar systems of the countries in that region.

Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said Indonesia military radar didn't pick up any signs of Flight 370 on the day the plane went missing. He said Malaysia had asked Indonesia to intensify the search in its assigned zone in the Indian Ocean west of Sumatra, but said his air force was strained in the task.

"We will do our utmost. We will do our best. But you do have to understand our limitations," Purnomo said.

Hishammuddin said both the southern and the northern sections of the search area were important, but that "some priority was being given to that (southern) area." He didn't elaborate.

Malaysian investigators say the plane departed 12:41 a.m. on March 8 and headed northeast toward Beijing over the Gulf of Thailand, but that it turned back after the final words were heard from the cockpit. Malaysian military radar data places the plane west of Malaysia in the Strait of Malacca at 2:14 a.m.

Thailand divulged new radar data Tuesday that appeared to corroborate Malaysian data showing the plane crossing back across Peninsular Malaysia.

The military in the Maldives, a remote Indian Ocean island nation, confirmed to Malaysia that reports of a sighting of the plane by villagers there were "not true," the Malaysian defense minister said.

German insurance company Allianz said it has made initial payments in connection with the missing plane. Spokesman Hugo Kidston declined to say how much but said it was in line with contractual obligations when an aircraft is reported as missing.

---

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Rod McGuirk, Satish Cheney and Chris Brummitt in Kuala Lumpur, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Australia, contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
D March 19 2014 at 3:12 PM

It is possible that the pilot or co-pilot noticed that the Jet
was mel-functioning and was trying to turn around in order
for a better chance for a safe landing.
They probably didn't make it back to land.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
grlsrm200 March 19 2014 at 2:48 PM

I hope some poeple appreciae the capabilities of the USA. Some times our tecnology comes in handy.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Newquest March 19 2014 at 3:54 PM

I think the former Pilot that says if things go wrong on a plane you are supposed to go for the Closest Airport and that's what he thinks the plane did when it made the turn toward an airport. That's the place where they need to lool. It really might have been a disaster and not sabatoge. He said it resembles another flight whose landing gear tire caught fire after the plane took off. It was out of sight and not noticed until it was too late. All their electronics went off also! The smoke from the fire could have filled the cabin. The plane could have crashed. I feel that he knows what he's talking about and no one else seems to. I say look for natural causes too and don't forget the rules about going to the nearest airport in an emergency. This should be looked into right away.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
T. Newquest March 19 2014 at 4:05 PM

What about the two Iranians that used their own passports for the first part of their travel and then switched to two stolen passports? The passports were stolen in two different states, at different times, somehow these two wind up with them, use them on the same flight together, what is that a secondary passport? Why did they have and how did they get the stolen passports and why did they use them after using other ones? I think it reeks.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
uh34d March 19 2014 at 2:46 PM

To all you conspiracy buffs out there, there is no way that plane could have reached Iran or any other land mass in that area of the globe without the US seeing it. In that area of the globe, we have a lock down electronically via ground systems and satellites in geosynchronous orbit...no way it could pass as the old cliche goes 'under the radar' no matter how experienced the person was flying that plane. If there's a significant f _ _ t that occurs in Iran, we know it...ditto for all of the 'stans' in that area. And if by chance we did pick up and track that aircraft and it did land in some undisclosed area and that information wasn't/hasn't been released, the administration could never withstand the political assault by most adherents of any political persuation...left and right. The sad truth is, that aircraft is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean and sooner or later, they will spot debris of some kind and in all likelihood hundreds of miles from the crash site due to ocean currents.

I will say, if it's discovered we know/knew where the plane is and we didn't at least release some information, not necessarily where the plane is, just we knew where it was all along then heads should roll for making the situation worse than it already is. I doubt very much though this will be the case.

Frankly, I've never trusted an all electronically controlled aircraft. Gone are the the old hydraulic servo's, surface control cables, pulleys, etc, now it's all servo motors, computer controls/programs, all electronic input and additional miles of wiring compared to the old control systems. You have all of that gadgetry stuffed into an aircraft, you're just looking for electrical/computer/programming problems...gremlins in the wires, phantom lines of programs which leaves no way for a pilot to override anything if the electronics/avionics goes haywire for whatever reason. I'd fly in an old DC-3, DC-4, Super Connie, etc before I'd fly in one of the new, spiffy super electronic aircraft plying today's sky.

Truly a sad situation for the families, friends of the passengers and crew.

Everybody out there, go out and make it a good day :)

Flag Reply +4 rate up
3 replies
mrugg47 March 19 2014 at 2:44 PM

Didn't anyone on board use their cell phones.
If not, it would seem to indicate some kind of immediate and unanticipated disaster.
The passengers had no warning or ability to react.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
8 replies
coptazlou March 19 2014 at 4:34 PM

strange that when the plane was seen making a turn, why did the air traffic controlers not notify the military to send jets up to intercept it?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
drepke coptazlou March 19 2014 at 4:41 PM

They said it was beyond the range of the air traffic control from Malaysia and it was entering Vietnamese airspace.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
SummitBay drepke March 19 2014 at 5:01 PM

... and then they turned west going back to Malaysian airspace

Flag +1 rate up
tykipalmer March 19 2014 at 4:38 PM

I flew on a Malaysia 777 between Stockholm and KL several times. The range is much further than they show. It would have been real easy to fly a 777 south of India then turn up and go into Pakistan or even to Somali.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Robert Webb tykipalmer March 19 2014 at 4:45 PM

The range is further that is reported on this flight, but that depends on how much fuel was taken on. In this case, it was enough fuel for 7 1/2 hours.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
wizardsking March 19 2014 at 4:39 PM

Throughout the day there have been several persons complaining about the use of the FBI in this investigation because it cost us money. The FBI has a sworn obligation by Oath Of Office to protect and defend against all foriegn and domestic. This not only falls into that catagory, but we have 3 US citizens who were on board this flight. Information will be found through forensics, as for the deleted material. Very few persons know how to completely delete information. The FBI has specialist to uncover these types of mysteries. Let them do their job. I know if it were you or I on that plane, I would wish for all resources to be used to answer the million dollar question.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
createimagesbyl March 19 2014 at 4:41 PM

whit so many hunting for this plane, does anyone wonder what was in the cargo hole to make for such a large & EXPENSIVE

Flag Reply +1 rate up
4 replies
ldarkspark5 March 19 2014 at 4:42 PM

I still say searching every where but the one place they can't china. They needed something delivered but not through the prying eyes of Beijing. Yes we have surveillance that can see into the oceans, the earth and keep track of all transpires on this earth but to do so would violate sovereignty of everywhere on earth. In the mean time think of the bill for this one enormous amount of resources are being spent maybe they are blowing through the last but what am I talking about they are the ones writing the money. oh well as long as the ink holds out. What a political arena.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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