Police probe finds no red flags on MH370 pilots, says report

Police investigations into the pilot and co-pilot of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have not turned up any red flags in their backgrounds, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

A source close to the investigations told the business daily that information on the two men – 53-year-old Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27 – were shared with its counterparts in other countries.

But so far, no suspicious activities or associations had turned up, reported The Wall Street Journal.

While the search for the missing aircraft with 239 people onboard has been intensified with search areas expanded significantly, police have also zeroed in on their probe into the two men.

Last Saturday, police seized a flight simulator from Zaharie's home which was reassembled in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur, where experts were conducting thorough checks.

Investigators said yesterday that they have found no evidence indicating that the pilot and others had practiced specific manoeuvres on the simulator.

Families and friends close to the two men have insisted that the duo could not have "deliberately" diverted the aircraft.

WSJ noted that Zaharie, a veteran pilot with more than 18,000 flying hours under his belt, had also served as a flight instructor while Fariq was engaged to be married.

However, with no other leads as to the whereabouts of the plane, the roles of the two men has become a critical part of the inquiry, as investigators believed someone with in-depth knowledge of the Boeing aircraft had deliberately turned off all its communications equipment, such as a the transponder and the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or Acars.

This was before the plane made an abrupt turn around from its scheduled course to Beijing, heading west instead, towards Peninsula Malaysia.

The plane, investigators said, could be as far as 3,200 miles away from where the communications system was disabled.

The pilots are not the only ones under scrutiny, police have said.

On Sunday, police revealed that it was also investigating ground staff who might have come into contact with the missing aircraft, on top of all 227 passengers and the other 10 crew members.

Khairul Amri Selamat, a 29-year-old aircraft engineer with aviation services firm Execujet Aviation Group, who was on board the flight, is also being probed.

According to his father Selamat Omar, Khairul was expected in Beijing to repair an aircraft, adding that his son did not know how to fly an airplane.

But is was not clear if Khairul's technical expertise played a role in the jet's diversion as well as in its communications shutdown.

Yesterday, Acting Transport minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein saiid Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had appealed to several countries for their radar and satellite information, as well as help in the search.

A spokesman from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, confirmed that Malaysia had made such a request, said WSJ.

"As long as it helps the search effort, China is willing to cooperate," he was quoted as saying, while urging Malaysia to provide "more accurate and comprehensive" information.

There were 152 Chinese nationals on MH370 and officials in Beijing have been pressuring Malaysia to speed up and increase its search efforts.

Hishammuddin revealed yesterday that the last ACARS report from the plane came in at 1.07am on March 8, just 26 minutes after leaving Kuala Lumpur. The next transmission, scheduled for 30 minutes later, at 1.37am, never came.

MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya confirmed that the last voice heard from the cockpit at 1.19am was that of co-pilot Fariq Abd Hamid.

The ACARS, it was believed, was switched off in that gap of 18 minutes. – March 18, 2014.