KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — The two pilots who flew the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane had been assigned to flight MH370 a month in advance, an official with the national carrier said today amid increasing scrutiny on its crew.
The MAS official, who asked not to be named, also said the roster for the pilots had not been amended at the last minute as alleged, after The Rakyat Post news portal reported that another pilot, Anas Mazlin, had been scheduled to fly the jetliner ferrying 227 passengers to Beijing.
“There is a pilot by the name of Anas Mazlin, but there was no changes in schedule to indicate he was supposed to fly instead of Zaharie,” the MAS officer told The Malay Mail Online.
The official also declined to disclose further information about Anas, besides confirming he is employed with MAS.
Citing a Facebook posting of Anas’ wife, Noor ‘Olya Dollah on March 8, The Rakyat Post reported that the pilot was replaced by Zaharie at the “last minute”.
Noor ‘Olya had reportedly expressed gratitude that her husband was not on the flight, which was scheduled last month.
But Noor ‘Olya’s status entry had been removed and the account deactivated when The Malay Mail Online checked her Facebook page earlier today.
The MAS official said Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, had been informed of their assigned flight seven days in advance, as is the usual procedure for pilots with the airline.
The Department of Civil Aviation also said that Zaharie and Fariq never made special request to operate the aircraft.
The jumbo jet was flying the red eye to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur 10 days ago on March 8 when it vanished from civilian aviation radars.
Until Saturday, the Boeing 777-200ER plane was believed to be lost in the South China Sea where aerial and naval assets of more than 20 did not turn up a single shred of evidence from MH370.
It then took a sinister turn when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that the plane was deliberately diverted off its route but stopped short of declaring that the plane was hijacked.
Najib also said that the final satellite communication with the plane occurred at 8.11am on March 8, indicating it continued flying after its transponder was disabled and the engine performance data link with MAS was severed more than seven hours before. But the satellite data did not indicate the plane’s location at the time.
It was also confirmed that military radar definitely tracked MH370 as it changed course and headed west towards the Indian Ocean.
The police have searched Zaharie’s and Fariq’s houses in Shah Alam, taking a flight simulator the former hand-built to mimic that of the Boeing 777-200ER that is now the subject of an international hunt by 25 countries.
The search operation have also been rerouted to scour the vast compass of the Indian Ocean, as data collated, revealed that the plane could possibly be located at two corridors: a northern arc from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in central Asia, or a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.