Neighbours discount Malaysian pilot’s terror links

Kuala Lumpur, March 29: After the FBI failed to find evidence so far from the flight simulator of the pilot who commanded the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, his neighbours said the allegations against him were only “ratings driven propaganda” by the media.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s neighbour, Kamal Nizam Kamal Ibrahim, said that Captain Shah loved aviation and was not linked to any terrorist groups, the New Strait Times reported.

“The allegations are all lies. I have known Zaharie and his family since young as our families were among the first ones to come and live here,” Ibrahim said.

“Zaharie had invited me over to his house many times to try the simulator. That simulator is just like a video game to him and he loves to share his hobby with everybody,” Ibrahim added.

Ibrahim, 29, said he was close to Ahmad Idris, 30, Captain Shah’s eldest son, but they rarely communicated since the aircraft went missing March 8.

Another unidentified neighbour also criticised the media the way it portrayed Zaharie.

“The reporting is unfair and the allegations are malicious and baseless. I knew him as a nice guy and he was definitely not someone capable of becoming a suicidal terrorist,” he said.

The FBI Thursday said that its technical team would in a day or two be able to retrieve the deleted data from the flight simulator found at the residence of Captain Shah.

Police searched Shah’s house soon after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed last week that the plane was suspected to have been diverted deliberately.

All the game logs in the personal flight simulator of Captain Shah were reportedly deleted Feb 3.

The Malaysian police have replicated the flight simulator found in Captain Shah’s residence hoping to find clues if the pilot had practised landing on his home flight simulator at airports located in areas where the search is being conducted.

The flight simulator was built by Captain Zaharie himself in November 2012. It had been made with off-the-shelf computer hardware including an ASUS Direct CUII and Rampage IV Extreme motherboard and six flat-screen monitors.

The simulator can re-create almost 20,000 airports worldwide and all routes flown can be saved on a hard-disk. Many of the controls are simplified, but the simulator provides basic features that recreate some of what an actual pilot experiences.

According to reports, three games – Flight Simulator X, Flight Simulator 9 and X Flight Simulator – were found in the captain’s personal simulator.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled to land in Beijing the same day. The 226 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

The plane lost contact along with its radar signal when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Prime Minster Razak at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur cited British investigators from its Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to confirm that flight MH370 “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.

The search operation for the lost passenger jet is currently being conducted in an area 1,850 km west of Perth, the capital of Western Australia state.