Missing Jet Pilot, Co-Pilot Had Strong Ties to Family, Community

A Muslim woman walks past the missing Malaysia Airlines co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 14.The pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet were a contented middle-aged family man passionate enough about flying to build his own simulator and the 27-year-old contemplating marriage who had just graduated to the cockpit of the Boeing 777. Details about the men have emerged from interviews with neighbors, Malaysia Airlines staff, a religious leader and from social networks and news reports in Malaysia and Australia. Lai Seng Sin / AP

As speculation builds that the vanished plane might have been hijacked by an individual with aviation skills, Malaysian investigators are looking into who else on board could have flown the Boeing 777 and who might have had a motive to commandeer the jet.

But police said they also are looking at the psychological background of the pilot and co-pilot, their family lives and connections, though currently there's no evidence linking them to any wrongdoing.

Friends of 27-year-old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, the son of a high-ranking civil servant who joined the national carrier in 2007, described him as a quiet, humble and respectful man, who lived with his deeply religious parents in a middle-class home.

“His father still cries when he talks about Fariq. His mother too."

One man at the mosque in his neighborhood said that Fariq's attendance was spotty due to his job, but that he attended regularly, even several times a day, when he was in town.

Ahmad Sarafi Ali Asrah, head of the community mosque, told The Associated Press that Fariq's family was distraught.

Did Missing Jet's Pilots or Passengers Play a Role? 3:54

“His father still cries when he talks about Fariq. His mother too,” said Ahmad Sarafi.

Fariq had only recently started co-piloting the Boeing 777 and had accrued 2,763 hours of flight experience.

Meanwhile, pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, had more than 18,000 flight hours and had worked for Malaysia Airlines since 1981.

A man dedicated to flying, Zaharie had a flight simulator at home he himself had built. The AP reported the pilot was also a grandfather and enthusiastic handyman, who had posted several YouTube videos on home improvement projects.

Neighbors of both men told the AP they were both committed to their respective communities. Fariq played futsal, a modified form of soccer popular in Southeast Asia, with neighborhood children and paid for their sports shirts, the AP reported.

Zaharie was known for cooking food for community events or making sure his wife and children did when he couldn't attend, the AP reported, adding that the pilot had also volunteered to be a poll monitor in recent elections.

"If there were to be a real takeover, that would be the time when the crew will be moving in and out to serve the cockpit the drinks or refreshments."

A Malaysian official said Friday that during the crucial first hour of Flight 370 there would have been an opportunity to break into the cockpit, despite security precautions.

"If there were to be a real takeover, that would be the time when the crew will be moving in and out to serve the cockpit the drinks or refreshments," said Ismail Nasaruddin, president of the Malaysian National Union of Flight Attendants.

Fariq has drawn heavy criticism since it was revealed he and another pilot invited two women to sit in the cockpit for a flight from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in 2011 — claims Malaysia Airlines has said it was investigating.

The airline also defended Zaharie's right to have a flight simulator at home, when the issue came under fire at a news conference.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said "everyone is free to do his own hobby."