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Missing Malaysia Flight MH370: FBI called in to recover deleted data from flight simulator at pilot’s home

Malaysian minister insists those aboard should be considered innocent until proven guilty

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 19 March 2014 13:58 GMT
A message for pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, captain of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, is pictured at an event to express solidarity to the family members of passengers onboard the plane
A message for pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, captain of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, is pictured at an event to express solidarity to the family members of passengers onboard the plane

Experts from the FBI are trying to restore data that was deleted from the flight simulator found in the home of the pilot of missing Flight MH370, officials have said. They hope that by restoring the information they may obtain something that can help pry open the mystery.

Twelve days after the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared without a trace, Malaysia’s Transport Minister said additional efforts were being made to search one of two “corridors” possibly flown by the plane after it disappeared from civilian radar.

The minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said it was important that pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 57, along with the other members of the crew and the passengers, should be considered innocent until something was found to the contrary. He also stressed that Mr Zaharie’s family were cooperating with the police.

“Local and international expertise has been recruited to examine the pilot’s flight simulator,” Mr Hussein told reporters. “Some data had been deleted from the simulator and forensic work to retrieve this data is ongoing.”

But other pilots said there was nothing suspicious about deleting data from such a simulator and likened it to getting rid of unwanted files from a computer. Amin Said, who runs a commercial fight simulator in Kuala Lumpur and who recreated Flight MH370’s path for The Independent earlier this week, said such a move was usual. “It takes a bit of memory,” he said. “Sometimes it would just conflict.”

Mr Hussein said that while Malaysia was still coordinating the search for the missing plane, other countries were increasingly taking responsibility in their own territory, and in other sectors. He said that Australia and Indonesia were leading the search of the southern Indian Ocean.

He said some countries, but not all, had provided radar information and that he was hoping other countries would provide the data. He refused to reveal what data had been provided. There has been growing speculation that the search is being undermined to some extent by an unwillingness of some countries to hand over information they believe could be harmful to their national security.

The Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on 8 March 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.

Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of the plane when it issued the last “ping” from its satellite communication system. The two arcs stretch northwards to Kazakhstan and deep into the southern Indian Ocean.

Mr Hussein said both areas of considered equally important but that the search of the southern corridor was more of a challenge because there were fewer countries over which the plane might have flown. However, an unidentified source said to be close to the inquiry told the Reuters news agency that it was most likely the missing plane headed south.

Pilots Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, left, and Fariq Abdul

The US, Australia and New Zealand have begun searching 117,000 square miles of ocean, around 1,600 miles to the west of Perth. Merchant ships are also being asked to keep a look out.

Checks are being carried out on the background of all of those aboard the plane. Mr Hussein said that checks have been received for all the foreigners except those from Ukraine and Russia - which account for three passengers - and that nothing suspicious has turned up so far.

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.

Journalists were prevented from speaking to them. “I want you to help me to find my son,” one of the two women said, according to the Associated Press.

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