MH370 pilots 'not suspicious'

The saga begins on March 8, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am, local time. On board are 227 passengers and 12 crew.
The saga begins on March 8, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am, local time. On board are 227 passengers and 12 crew.
Captaining the flight of the Boeing 777-200 is 53-year old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, shown here on the right.
Captaining the flight of the Boeing 777-200 is 53-year old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, shown here on the right.
At 1:21am the MH370's transponder stops signalling, halting the regular responses it usually gives to radar signals. The plane makes a series of strange but controlled movements, turning west sharply, then climbing above its designed height limit and back down.
At 1:21am the MH370's transponder stops signalling, halting the regular responses it usually gives to radar signals. The plane makes a series of strange but controlled movements, turning west sharply, then climbing above its designed height limit and back down.
At 1.30am, on point 4, the plane is spotted for the last time on civilian radar. At 2.15am, on point 5, military radar spots it, although it is not clear at the time that this was MH370. Satellite data suggests the plane could also have angled towards point 6.
At 1.30am, on point 4, the plane is spotted for the last time on civilian radar. At 2.15am, on point 5, military radar spots it, although it is not clear at the time that this was MH370. Satellite data suggests the plane could also have angled towards point 6.
At 6.32am air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur sends a radio signal on an emergency channel asking MH370 to contact them. The plane is now overdue at Beijing Airport, shown.
At 6.32am air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur sends a radio signal on an emergency channel asking MH370 to contact them. The plane is now overdue at Beijing Airport, shown.
Relatives of passengers despair, and the search begins.
Relatives of passengers despair, and the search begins.
International news media focus on the story immediately.
International news media focus on the story immediately.
Multiple false leads pop up, like this oil spotted by a Vietnamese search plane.
Multiple false leads pop up, like this oil spotted by a Vietnamese search plane.
Malaysian government and airline officials have released confusing and contradictory information. Here, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, left, and Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman take questions at a press conference.
Malaysian government and airline officials have released confusing and contradictory information. Here, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, left, and Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman take questions at a press conference.
Concerns are raised when it becomes apparent that two Iranian men, shown here, boarded the plane with stolen passports. Interpol rejects the suggestion of terrorism, however, concluding the men were probably asylum seekers.
Concerns are raised when it becomes apparent that two Iranian men, shown here, boarded the plane with stolen passports. Interpol rejects the suggestion of terrorism, however, concluding the men were probably asylum seekers.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
Theories abound. Fellow pilot Chris Goodfellow has suggested that a tyre may have caught fire, causing the pilots to turn towards the closest suitable airport, with the rapid ascent and descent perhaps representing an attempt to extinguish the fire. Critics of this theory have pointed out that the change in path was programmed into the plane's computer 12 minutes before the calm toned "good night" transmission, suggesting the change in course was planned.
Theories abound. Fellow pilot Chris Goodfellow has suggested that a tyre may have caught fire, causing the pilots to turn towards the closest suitable airport, with the rapid ascent and descent perhaps representing an attempt to extinguish the fire. Critics of this theory have pointed out that the change in path was programmed into the plane's computer 12 minutes before the calm toned "good night" transmission, suggesting the change in course was planned.
Given the amount of fuel on board, the plane could have made it as far north as Kazakhstan, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Given the amount of fuel on board, the plane could have made it as far north as Kazakhstan, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Or somewhere southwest of Australia, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Or somewhere southwest of Australia, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Others have speculated that the pilot or co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane. The FBI is trying to restore deleted simulator-flights from Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's computer – but these could be innocuous. Critics of the crash theory say neither the pilot nor co-pilot had ever expressed any kind of radical sentiment or displayed mental issues, and both possessed adequate flying experience.
Others have speculated that the pilot or co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane. The FBI is trying to restore deleted simulator-flights from Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's computer – but these could be innocuous. Critics of the crash theory say neither the pilot nor co-pilot had ever expressed any kind of radical sentiment or displayed mental issues, and both possessed adequate flying experience.
The ever-present worry of terrorism remains. No groups have claimed responsibility for the incident, and a political motivation is unclear - but that doesn't rule it out.
The ever-present worry of terrorism remains. No groups have claimed responsibility for the incident, and a political motivation is unclear - but that doesn't rule it out.
On March 20, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his parliament that objects had been spotted in waters hundreds of kilometres off the western Australian coast. Further searches, by Australian, New Zealand and US planes, were needed to find out if they were part of the missing plane.
On March 20, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his parliament that objects had been spotted in waters hundreds of kilometres off the western Australian coast. Further searches, by Australian, New Zealand and US planes, were needed to find out if they were part of the missing plane.
The crew of one of two Chinese Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft used in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 walk away from their plane in Perth.
The crew of one of two Chinese Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft used in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 walk away from their plane in Perth.
Thirty-eight days after the plane went missing, an Australian navy ship is guided into position by a Royal New Zealand Airforce P-3K2 Orion aircraft. Officials say they will deploy an underwater robot to aid in the hunt.
Thirty-eight days after the plane went missing, an Australian navy ship is guided into position by a Royal New Zealand Airforce P-3K2 Orion aircraft. Officials say they will deploy an underwater robot to aid in the hunt.
Announcing that an underwater drone will be deployed imminently, Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre chief Angus Houston says an oil slick has been detected in the search area for the missing plane.
Announcing that an underwater drone will be deployed imminently, Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre chief Angus Houston says an oil slick has been detected in the search area for the missing plane.

Forensic experts examining the home flight simulator of Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah have found nothing suspicious, collapsing the only significant lead investigators have been pursuing to try to solve the mystery disappearance of MH370, police sources say.

Investigators became suspicious last week when they discovered Zaharie, 53, had deleted logs on a computer linked to the simulator on February 3, almost five weeks before the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board inexplicably turned around during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and was still flying more than seven hours later.

The computer hard drive was sent to FBI experts in the US to search for evidence of some kind of hijacking plot.

Zaharie and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, have been a key focus of investigations after Malaysian authorities said they believed a “deliberate action” by someone on board caused the plane to lose communications and then turn around from its scheduled flight path.

Intensive scrutiny of Zaharie’s background has failed uncover any links to extremists groups or terrorism.

Investigations have also failed to find anything suspicious in the background of Fariq, who was due soon to marry another pilot.

Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein was expected to announce that police had found nothing suspicious on the simulator at a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur late on Saturday, Malaysian time.

Australia has cautioned  that their investigations in the southern Indian Ocean remained a tentative one.

Officials are bracing for the "long haul" as searches by more than two dozen countries turn up little but frustration and fresh questions about Flight MH370 which vanished on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

Six aircraft and two merchant ships are now scouring an area of the remote southern Indian Ocean where suspected debris was spotted by satellite earlier this week.

Australia, which announced the potential find and is coordinating the rescue, has cautioned the objects might be a lost shipping container or other debris.

"Even though this is not a definite lead, it is probably more solid than any other lead around the world and that is why so much effort and interest is being put into this search," acting Australian Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters at a Perth airforce base.

China, Japan and India are sending more planes and Australian and Chinese navy vessels are also steaming towards the zone, more than 2,000km southwest of Perth.

Weather conditions are good, with 10 km of visibility, according to search officials - a crucial boost for a search that is relying more on human eyes than the technical wizardry of the most advanced aircraft in the world.

"While these aircraft are equipped with very advanced technology, much of this search is actually visual," said Truss, who also warned that the objects detected by satellites may now be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

"It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we are absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile, and that day is not in sight," he said.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesman John Young said the operation was still considered search and rescue.

"The plan is we want to find these objects because they are the best lead to where we might find people to be rescued," he said.

CLOCK TICKING

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said searchers were facing the "long haul" but were conscious that the clock was ticking. The plane's "black box" voice and data recorder only transmits an electronic signal for about 30 days before its battery dies, after which it will be far more difficult to locate.

Aircraft and ships have also renewed the search in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand, going over areas that have already been exhaustively swept to find some clue to unlock one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation.

Investigators suspect the Boeing 777, which took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing shortly after midnight on March 8, was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path. They say they are focusing on hijacking or sabotage but have not ruled out technical problems.

The Telegraph newspaper published what it said was a transcript of communications between the cockpit of Flight MH370 and Malaysian air control, but few if any new clues emerged.

The search itself has strained ties between China and Malaysia, with Beijing repeatedly leaning on the Southeast Asian nation to step up its hunt and do a better job at looking after the relatives of the Chinese passengers.

For families of the passengers, the process has proved to be an emotionally wrenching battle to elicit information, their angst fuelled by a steady stream of speculation and false leads.

Some experts have argued that the reluctance to share sensitive radar data and capabilities in a region fraught with suspicion amid China's military rise and territorial disputes may have hampered the search.

Two people familiar with the investigation said the search had been slowed in some cases by delays over the paperwork to allow foreign maritime surveillance aircraft into territorial waters without a formal diplomatic request.

Truss said he was grateful for the search craft offered by China and others, which are expected to arrive at the Australian airforce base on Saturday.

Australian rescue coordinators said they are awaiting confirmation of the planes and ships offered before they are included in any search schedules.

-Reuters and Fairfax Australia