Final words from jet came after comms systems shutdown, adding to suspicions of pilot involvement
Malaysia's police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, said he asked countries with citizens on board the plane to investigate their backgrounds, no doubt looking for anyone with terrorism ties, aviation skills or prior contact with the pilots. He said that the intelligence agencies of some countries had already done so and found nothing suspicious, but he was waiting for others to respond.
Police searched the homes of both pilots Saturday, the first time they had done so since the plane vanished, the government said. Asked why it took them so long, Khalid said authorities "didn't see the necessity in the early stages."
Police confiscated the elaborate flight simulator that one of the pilots, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had built in his home and reassembled it in their offices to study it for clues, Khalid said.
Zaharie, 53, who has three grown children and one grandchild, had previously posted photos online of the simulator, which was made with three large computer monitors and other accessories. Earlier this week, the head of Malaysia Airlines said the simulator was not in itself cause for any suspicion.
Malaysian police were also investigating engineers and ground staff who may have had contact with the plane before it took off, Khalid said.
Even though the ACARS system was disabled on Flight 370, it continued to emit faint hourly pulses that were recorded by a satellite. The last "ping" was sent out at 8:11 a.m. — 7 hours and 31 minutes after the plane took off. That placed the jet somewhere in a huge arc as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia or far into the southern Indian Ocean.
While many people believe the plane has crashed, there is a small possibility it may have landed somewhere and be relatively intact. Affendi, the air force general, and Hishammuddin, the defense minister, said it was possible for the plane to "ping" when it was on the ground if its electrical systems were up and running.
Australia said it was sending one of its two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search to remote islands in the Indian Ocean at Malaysia's request. The plane will search the north and west of the Cocos Islands, a remote Australian territory with an airstrip about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) southwest of Indonesia, military chief Gen. David Hurley said.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he will speak with Malaysian officials Monday to see if they wanted additional search help.
Asked whether any Australian agency had picked up any information suggesting the plane flew near Australia, Abbott said: "I don't have any information to that effect, but all of our agencies that could possibly help in this area are scouring their data to see if there's anything they can add to the understanding of this mystery."
Given that a northern route would have sent the plane over countries with busy airspace, most experts say the person in control of the aircraft would more likely have chosen to go south. The southern Indian Ocean is the world's third-deepest and one of the most remote stretches of water in the world, with little radar coverage.
Whoever disabled the plane's communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience, putting one or both of the pilots high on the list of possible suspects, Malaysian officials and aviation experts said.
Associated Press writers Ian Mader and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.
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