BC-AS--Malaysia-Plane, 14th Ld-Writethru,1149
Malaysia, FBI analyze missing pilot’s simulator
AP Photo XVT110, KL801, XAY101, TOK105, XVT114, XVT101, XVT112, XVT114
Eds: Adds comment from flight simulator software company CEO and Obama. AP Video. With AP Photos.
By IAN MADER
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 — wailing in frustration at 12 days of uncertainty.
The anguish of relatives of the 239 people on Flight 370 boiled over Wednesday 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. Then again, the files could have been deleted simply to clear memory for other material.
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.
Zaharie was known to some within the online world of flight simulation enthusiasts.
In a post on one forum, the CEO of flight simulation software company PMDG wrote that Zaharie was a customer who "had developed an online presence in which he dedicated many hours of his time to promoting the enjoyment of flying generally, and flight simulation specifically." The company CEO, Robert Randazzo, could not be reached directly for comment, but the publisher of the popular forum AVSIM Online, Tom Allensworth, confirmed that the post was from Randazzo.
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 asked to analyze the deleted simulator files.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington that the FBI was working with Malaysian authorities.
"At this point, I don’t think we have any theories," Holder said.
Flight 370 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 7½ 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.
In his first public comments on the mystery, President Barack Obama told a U.S. television station that finding out what happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is a top U.S. priority.
"It’s a big piece of planet that we’re searching and sometimes these things take time," Obama said.Next Page >
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