KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — The co-pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 had just completed his evaluation to fly the Boeing 777-200ER plane, the flag carrier said today.
Responding to a question on whether Fariq Abdul Hamid’s experience may have been a factor in the mystery of the Beijing-bound plane that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya acknowledged that the aviator was recently-promoted to the 777 class.
“The co-pilot is new to the type, he was moved up from our lower fleet,” Ahmad Jauhari said during the daily press conference on the search for MH370 here today.
Explaining that the airline was “very strict” in ensuring that pilots coming through the ranks were properly evaluated for the task, the MAS chief said junior aviators were assigned a “check co-pilot” to monitor their performance for the first five flights on a new aircraft type, during which they must fly the plane.
MH370 was Fariq’s sixth on the 777, and the first without a pilot assigned to monitor him.
But Ahmad Jauhari insisted that this was not an issue, noting that captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a qualified trainer for the Boeing jetliner.
“The co-pilot was flying with an examiner; the captain is a certified 777 examiner,” Ahmad Jauhari said.
MAS previously said its records indicated that Fariq was believed to be the person who made MH370’s final radio transmission saying, “All right, good night”, at 1.19am on March 8.
Malaysian air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane three minutes later, when its transponder was deactivated.
The authorities believe, based on radar and satellite data, that the plane was deliberately piloted off-course after the system shutdown but it is unknown as yet if this was the result of a mechanical failure on board or a more sinister reason, such as terrorism or hijacking.
The police have been ordered to dig deeper into the backgrounds of the 12 crew and 227 passengers after Malaysian authorities confirmed that the flight’s communications had been deliberately disabled before the Boeing 777-200ER swerved left from its eastward route to Beijing.
On March 15, the police had searched Zaharie’s and co-pilot Fariq’s houses, where they had recovered a self-built flight simulator, among other items, from the former’s home.
Malaysia has sent the home-made flight simulator to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US to retrieve and analyse the deleted data.
Last Wednesday, acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein reminded the public that all 239 people on board MH370 remain innocent until proven guilty.
Malaysia law enforcement officials previously informed the US counterparts that nothing suspicious was found on the personal computers of Zaharie and Fariq.