KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's defense minister says files were recently deleted from the home flight simulator belonging to the pilot aboard the missing Malaysian jetliner.
Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference Wednesday that investigators are trying to retrieve the files. He also said that the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing.
Hishammuddin said background checks have been received from overseas agencies for all foreign passengers on the plane except for those from Ukraine and Russia - which accounted for three passengers. He says none of the checks has turned up anything suspicious.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people aboard went missing March 8 on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Thai radar saw 'unknown aircraft' after MH370 vanished
BANGKOK: Thai radar picked up an "unknown aircraft" minutes after flight MH370 last transmitted its location but officials failed to report the findings earlier as the plane was not considered a threat, the air force said Wednesday.
The information emerged during checks of radar logs on Monday - nine days after the Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 passengers and crew disappeared - after a request from the Malaysian government, according to Air Marshal Monthon Suchookorn.
An "unknown aircraft was detected at 00:28 (local time, 1:28 am Malaysian time), six minutes after MH370 vanished" in the South China Sea, moving southwest towards Kuala Lumpur and the Strait of Malacca, he told AFP.
That timing corresponds with the last transmission from the Boeing 777's transponder at 1:21 am Malaysian time, which relayed information about the plane's altitude and location.
The timing of the plane being spotted travelling in the opposite direction from MH370's intended flight path to Beijing also comes after the final voice communication from the jet, a seemingly relaxed "All right, good night" at 1:19 am.
Malaysia Airlines believes it was the co-pilot speaking from the cockpit.
Monthon said that although the signal was sporadic, the aircraft was later again picked up by Thai radar swinging north and disappearing over the Andaman Sea.
"It's not confirmed that the aircraft is MH370," he said, adding he was unable to give "exact times" of the later sightings.
The plane slipped off Malaysian civilian radar screens at 1:30 am but continued to blip on its military radars until 2:15 am before disappearing entirely.
The Thai revelations are likely to fuel anger at the apparently sluggish and at times contradictory official response to the jet's disappearance, which has left anguished relatives pleading for answers on the fate of their loved ones.
The Thai air force did not check its records because the aircraft was not in "Thai airspace and it was not a threat to Thailand", the spokesman said, denying it had been "withholding information".
Initially the massive search for the vanished jet focused on the Gulf of Thailand and adjacent South China Sea, with several nations sending boats, helicopters and jets to scour the waters.
The investigation into the fate of the Boeing 777 has focused on findings it was likely deliberately diverted from its flight path to Beijing, probably by someone in the cockpit with advanced aviation skills.
But the drip-feed of often conflicting information from Malaysia has sparked fury among desperate relatives and condemnation from Chinese authorities. Two-thirds of those on board were Chinese.
Twenty-six countries are now involved in the hunt which covers a vast arc of land and sea, in a northern corridor over south and central Asia, and a southern corridor stretching deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia.
Maldives police probe reports of MH370 sighting
NEW DELHI: Police in the Maldives are probing reports that islanders in the tourism paradise saw a "low-flying jumbo jet" on the day the missing Malaysia Airlines plane vanished.
In a statement released late Tuesday, police said they were investigating a report on the Haveeru news website that local residents had spotted a large plane flying over the remote southern island of Kuda Huvadhoo on March 8.
"The police are looking into the reports in the media saying that a low-flying airplane was sighted above Kuda Huvadhoo," the statement said.
Several alleged sightings of the Boeing 777, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, have proved to be false alarms and reports of debris at sea have also turned up nothing.
Haveeru said witnesses on Kuda Huvadhoo had seen a white aircraft with red stripes flying towards the southern tip of the Maldives.
"I've never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We've seen seaplanes, but I'm sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly," the website quoted one witness as saying.
Haveeru journalist Farah Ahmed said several witnesses had given similar accounts.
"These people first heard a very loud noise from a plane flying unusually low and they came out to see it," Ahmed told AFP by phone from the Maldives capital Male, whose international airport daily handles dozens of wide-body jets bringing in thousands of tourists.
The hunt for the missing passenger jet now focuses on two vast search areas - a northern one spanning south and central Asia, and a southern corridor stretching deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia.
The Maldives, located far from both arcs, is not among the 26 countries currently involved in the massive international search operation.