FBI helps analyze deleted data in missing plane probe
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The FBI joined forces with Malaysian authorities in analyzing deleted data on a flight simulator belonging to the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, while distraught relatives of the passengers unleashed their anger Wednesday — wailing in frustration at 12 days of uncertainty.
The anguish of relatives of the 239 people on Flight 370 boiled over at a briefing near Kuala Lumpur's airport. Two Chinese women who shouted at Malaysian authorities and unfurled a banner accusing officials of “hiding the truth” were removed from the room. In a heart-wrenching scene, one woman screamed in sorrow as she was dragged away.
“I want you to help me to find my son! I want to see my son!” one of the two unidentified women said. “We have been here for 10 days.”
Files containing records of flight simulations 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.
It was not immediately clear whether investigators thought that deleting the files was unusual. The files might hold signs of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went.
Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference that Zaharie is considered innocent until proven guilty. He said members of the pilot's family are cooperating in the investigation.
Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of the plane about 7½ hours after takeoff, based on its last faint signal to a satellite. The arcs stretch up as far as Kazakhstan in central Asia and down deep into the southern Indian Ocean.
A source close to the investigation told Reuters that authorities believe the jetliner is likely in the southern corridor. “The working assumption is that it went south, and furthermore that it went to the southern end of that corridor,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, a simple computer upgrade that Malaysia Airlines decided not to purchase would have provided critical information to help find the airliner that disappeared 12 days ago.
The upgrade, which wholesales for about $10 per flight, would have provided investigators with the direction, speed and altitude of the plane even after other communications from the plane went dark, said a satellite industry official familiar with the equipment.
Data from a similar computer upgrade allowed investigators in the crash of an Air France jetliner in 2009 to quickly narrow their search area to a radius of about 40 miles in the Atlantic Ocean, and in five days, they found floating evidence of the crash.
The ocean search for the missing Malaysian flight now covers a vast expanse of water, about 2.24 million square nautical miles of the Indian Ocean from the west coast of Malaysia to the waters off Perth, Australia.
The new information indicates that had the upgrade for a system called Swift been installed, it would have continued to send flight data by satellite even after signals from the plane's transponder and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) went dead.
Investigators say they think those two systems were shut down by a pilot or hijackers in the cockpit before the plane flew on for seven more hours.