Kuala Lumpur: The co-pilot of the missing Malaysian plane had just completed his evaluation to fly the Boeing 777-200 plane and was flying for the first time without a “check co-pilot” monitoring his work, the airlines said today.
Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27-year-old co-pilot who joined the airline seven year ago, was on his sixth flight in the cockpit of a Boeing that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.
He said Fariq had been accompanied by a “check co-pilot” during his previous five trips.
“This is in line with company policy,” he said.
“We did not see any problem with him” and as a result Fariq had been allowed to fly his sixth flight without the check co-pilot on board, he said.
The calmly spoken “all right, good night” final known words from the missing jet are believed to have been spoken by Fariq. Malaysian air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane three minutes later, when its transponder was deactivated.
“The co-pilot is new to the type, he was moved up from our lower fleet,” Ahmad told reporters.
He said the airlines was “very strict” in ensuring that pilots coming through the ranks were properly evaluated for the task.
Junior aviators are 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.
Responding to a question on whether Fariq’s inexperience may have been a factor in the mystery of the Beijing-bound plane, Ahmad insisted that this was not an issue, noting that pilot 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 said.
Authorities believe, based on radar and satellite data, that the plane was deliberately taken off-course after the communication system shutdown by someone on board.
Defence and acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said they are not discounting any possibility, though no ransom note was received.
Asked if marshals would be assigned to planes for safety, Hishamuddin said there were many aspects to look at not only by Malaysia but by the global industry.