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Malaysian police search home of pilot of missing MH370, says official

Published on Mar 15, 2014 4:18 PM
 
Police began searching the home of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Saturday, March 15, 2014, after the country's prime minister confirmed the plane was suspected to have been deliberately diverted, a senior police official told Reuters. -- PHOTO: ZAHARIE AHMAD SHAH/FACEBOOK

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS/AFP) - Police began searching the home of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Saturday, after the country's prime minister confirmed the plane was suspected to have been deliberately diverted, a senior police official told Reuters.

Police officers arrived at the home of the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, on Saturday afternoon, shortly after Prime Minister Najib Razak ended his news conference.

Investigators had confirmed that an aircraft tracked by military radar was MH370, after its communications were likely switched off before it reached the east coast of Malaysia a week ago, Mr Najib said.

Mr Najib also said new data showed the last communication between the missing plane and satellites was at 8.11am Malaysian time.

That was almost seven hours after it dropped off civilian air traffic control screens at 1.22am last Saturday, less than an hour after take-off. It was flying across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern side of Malaysia towards Vietnam.

The captain joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and was certified by Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) as a simulator test examiner, according to Malaysia Airlines officials. He had 18,365 flying hours.

He was known to be an aviation buff and had built a flight simulator at home.

On Friday, Malaysia Airlines chief executive officer Ahnad Jauhari Yahya said Malaysia Airlines had no policy forbidding staff from owning the technology and Captain Zaharie was allowed to pursue his hobbies.

"There are several other guys (pilots) who also have flight simulators in their home," he told reporters.

CNN reported that Captain Zaharie had posted on German online forum, X-Sim.de, that he had built a flight simulator himself in November 2012.

"About a month ago I finish assembly of FSX and FS9 with six monitors" in a message signed Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah BOEING 777 MALAYSIA AIRLINES.

FSX and FS9 were flight simulator games made by Microsoft that could be bought online.

The captain studied aviation at the Philippine Airlines Aviation School in Pasay City, Manila in 1980, before joining Malaysia Airlines.

The co-pilot of MH370, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, had 2,763 hours of flying.

Last week, an Australian television report broadcast an interview with a South African woman who alleged Fariq and another pilot colleague invited them into the cockpit of a flight he co-piloted in 2011 - a breach of post-9/11 security rules.

Earlier on Saturday, a source familiar with official US assessments of electronic signals sent to satellites said it appeared most likely the plane turned south over the Indian Ocean, where it would presumably have run out of fuel and crashed into the sea.

The other interpretation was that MH370 continued to fly to the northwest and headed over Indian territory.

The source added that it was believed unlikely the plane flew for any length of time over India because that country has strong air defence and radar coverage and that should have allowed authorities there to see the plane and intercept it.

Two sources familiar with the investigation in Malaysia told Reuters on Friday that military radar data showed the aircraft following a commonly used commercial, navigational route towards the Middle East and Europe.

That course - headed into the Andaman Sea and towards the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean - could only have been set deliberately, either by flying the jet manually or by programming the auto-pilot.

The maximum range of the Boeing 777-200ER is 7,725 nautical miles or 14,305 km. It is not clear how much fuel the aircraft was carrying though it would have been enough to reach its scheduled destination, Beijing, a flight of five hours and 50 minutes, plus some reserve.

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