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Malaysia Says Pilot Suicide a Possibility

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Malaysia Says Pilot Suicide a Possibility as Scrutiny Increases
A Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) pilot and flight attendant arrive at the departures hall at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Malaysia. Photographer: Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysia said it’s exploring the possibility of pilot suicide in the disappearance of Flight 370 as scrutiny of the missing plane’s crew intensifies.

“Yes, we’re looking at it,” Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today, referring to a question about pilot suicide. He said he “cannot say for the moment” if the pilots had financial or personal issues.

Police searched the homes of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid on March 15 after Prime Minister Najib Razak said the plane was intentionally diverted en route to Beijing 10 days ago. It lost contact and disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after it took off with Zaharie at the helm, while initial investigations indicated the co-pilot was last heard by air traffic controllers.

Focus on the pilots of the plane increased after Malaysian authorities yesterday said the 777’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, which transmits text messages and data to and from planes, was disabled before the last voice transmission from the cockpit.

First officer Fariq, 27, joined the airline in 2007. The last words heard possibly from him were “alright, good night,” as Malaysian air traffic controllers prepared to hand the plane over to Vietnamese counterparts.

Four Areas

Malaysia’s transport ministry said investigations of all crew members, including the pilot and co-pilot, as well as all ground staff handling the aircraft, began on March 8. Police said the four areas of focus are hijacking, sabotage, personal or psychological issues.

Psychological, psychometric and psychomotor tests are routine for pilot recruitment and the company will look into strengthening and tightening entry requirements, Malaysian Airline System Bhd. Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said today.

Zaharie, 52, joined Malaysian in 1981 and had accumulated 18,365 flying hours since. He displayed a deep passion for the Boeing Co. 777-200 jetliner, building his own six-screen flight simulator at his home. The government said today the machine has been removed from Zaharie’s home with his family’s assistance and assembled at its headquarters for experts to examine.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shamim Adam in Singapore at sadam2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net Benedikt Kammel, Christopher Jasper

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