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TODAY   |  March 19, 2014

Files erased from Flight 370 pilot’s flight simulator

Malaysian officials announced that files appear to have been deleted in February from the home flight simulator of Flight 370. Everyone on board is still being looked at carefully. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> let's get to the new information coming out of this morning's news conference. it involves the pilot's home simulator and files deleted. also, when the plane actually changed course. nbc's tom costello has all of this. good morning to you.

>> day 12, still no sign of the plane. but there is a new twist, rather, to the criminal investigation concerning that flight simulator in captain shah's home. some of the data was deleted in february. it's not clear if it was routine maintenance or something else.

>> yesterday --

>> reporter: new this morning, malaysian authorities say someone appears to have deleted some of the files from the flight simulator in shah's home. the same simulator captain shah was sitting in front of in a youtube video . what's not clear is who deleted the files and why.

>> local and international expertise examined the flight simulator . some data has been deleted from the simulator, and forensic work to retrieve this data is ongoing.

>> meanwhile, no clear answers on who programmed into malaysia airlines flight 370's flight computer. the u-turn that took the plane off course.

>> if i want to leave this route, it's as simple as pressing a button and now turning. you'll see, the airplane is now turning on its own and it's leaving the route.

>> flight deck flight simulator in anaheim, we asked steve wallerstein to show us how a pilot would program in a turn back to kuala lumpur .

>> maintain the altitude. if i want to change the altitude, all i've got to do is set a different altitude in here. the plane will go to that altitude.

>> with so much confusion about the basic facts, the plane's u-turn after it lost transponder contact appears to be a smooth 20-degree turn. u.s. government sources do not believe reports that the plane climbed to 45,000 and ascended to 5,000 feet. that radar data appears unreliable. and it's still possible that passengers slept through all of this never knowing something was wrong. meanwhile, as the search focuses on the indian ocean , an alternative theory is getting a lot of attention on the internet. suggesting an electrical fire could've taken out the comes and disabled the crew trying to turn back. the autopilot would've flown the plane on into the ocean. most experts, though, are skeptical.

>> an electrical fire, while it's possible, you couldn't, i don't believe, disable all the systems very rapidly with an electrical base fire.

>> the internet is full of reports that someone has spotted this plane in satellite images in a jungle or pieces of the ocean. but so far, none of those leads has checked out. and importantly, everyone onboard is being looked at very carefully, not just the cockpit crew. guys, back to you.

>> yeah, tom, let's go over this headline, though, this morning. this report that files from the pilot's home flight simulator were deleted. we all have computers at home. we've all deleted files. usually to free up memory. did they give any indication how long the forensics make take to see if they can retrieve what files were deleted?

>> no. and i think what's important. if you delete a file, you may be deleted the headline, if you will, or the header. the question is if you can go back in and find the pieces of data still inside the computer somewhere and pull that all back together again. that's going to be the challenge for malaysian investigators. and importantly as you know the malaysians thus far have not asked for fbi assistance. and so we believe this is a malaysian operation.

>> all right, tom costello. thanks