Authorities searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said in a press briefing today that they have found deleted files on the pilot’s home simulator and are trying to recover them, as they could provide clues to where the pilot may have flown.
ABC News reports that Malaysia has employed the services of a full forensics team to reprogram the flight simulator and find the missing files. Authorities do not currently know whether the files will provide any insight into whether the pilot had been practicing for this flight and intended to divert the plane, as the files were deleted about a month ago.
Authorities are looking for “any indication that the simulator could practice anything untoward like practicing landing on small islands in the ocean,” said acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. According to Yahoo News, they did not indicate whether they believed it strange or suspect for a pilot to have a certain number of deleted files on a flight simulator.
Reports surfaced yesterday that investigators had found five runways uploaded onto the simulator that were in the Indian Ocean, including one in the U.S. Air Force base on Diego Garcia atoll and one on the island nation of the Maldives. In yesterday’s full press briefing, however, Hishammuddin claimed authorities found no incriminating or helpful information on the simulator yet, and were hopeful to find something on the deleted files.
The transportation minister also claimed that reports saying eyewitnesses had seen the plane on the Maldives were false, and the government was not looking deeply into them. Maldivian islanders had told their local newspaper that they were awakened on the morning of March 8 by a “low flying jumbo jet” with red stripes, which would match the description of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
Should the Maldives report prove true, it will not be the first time that Malaysian authorities will have had to backtrack on claims. Malaysian authorities initially said that reports the plane deviated sharply to the right after disappearing and flew for hours were “inaccurate,” only to accept them later. The government also retracted an initial report stating that the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had spoken to air traffic control after communications mechanisms had shut down.
As for the flight simulator, the lack of a distress signal from the plane has triggered much speculation as to whether the pilot was responsible for the disappearance. Finding any indication that Captain Zaharie was practicing landing on strange runways or remote islands would help search groups narrow down the area of the search, now the size of Australia. Given that evidence points to someone with significant experience with a Boeing 777 being the only one capable of changing the direction of the plane and turning off transponders, Zaharie has been under the spotlight. Officials emphasized, however, that he was innocent in the disappearance until proven guilty.