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MISSING MH370: Attention turns to veteran pilot of missing plane

The pilot of MH370, Mr Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is said to be an expert on the Boeing 777 that he was flying when it vanished last Saturday. He has been described as a flying buff with a self-assembled flight simulator in his home. (PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF ZAHARIE AHMAD SHAH)

Publication Date : 15-03-2014

 

As the mystery deepens into the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner, attention has now turned to the veteran Malaysian pilot who flew the Beijing-bound plane which disappeared 50 minutes after it took off.

At yesterday's media conference, the questions focused on the man described as such a flying buff that he had a self-assembled flight simulator in his home.

Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981. He has clocked more than 18,000 flying hours, and is said to be an expert on the Boeing 777 that he was flying when it vanished last Saturday.

The search for the plane has now extended thousands of kilometres from the original site, suggesting that the plane may have continued to be flown hours after it lost radar contact.

Investigations showed it may have deviated from its original easterly flight route and headed west over Peninsular Malaysia.

Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was asked at the media conference yesterday why police had not searched the pilots' homes.

"Some information may need to be confirmed by the police," he said.

Asked if the pilot was a suspect, Hishammuddin said everyone on the passenger and crew list was being investigated.

Malaysian police have said they are investigating four angles: hijack and sabotage, as well as personal and psychological problems of the crew and passengers.

"On that premise, that is what we are investigating and we don't want to pre-empt what the police have found out," Hishammuddin said.

He declined to answer if Zaharie had a flight simulator in his home in a Selangor suburb, as shown by photographs on his Facebook page.

"We can't answer that question until we are able to go in and see. I've indicated, from the police (information), that they have not actually gone into the house," he said. "But the investigations into the pilots are ongoing."

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, who was at the same press conference, said "quite a few pilots" had flight simulators at home.

"Everyone is free to have (his) own hobby," he said.

Co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, made the news in recent days; he had reportedly invited two South African teenagers into the cockpit on a flight three years ago.

Zaharie's Facebook also indicated that his passion for flying extended to owning several remote-controlled aircraft and an interest in all things mechanical.

Outside of work, colleagues and neighbours have described Zaharie as a sociable man who enjoyed cooking and often participated in community events.

He grew up in Penang, and attended the Penang Free School.

According to Malaysian officials, the last words heard from the cockpit of MH370 in the hours of last Saturday morning were "alright, good night", as Malaysian air traffic control informed the pilots that control was being handed over to Vietnam.

It is not certain, though, if it was Zaharie or his co-pilot who had said this.

 

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