MH370: Pilot 'innocent until proven guilty'

Two airlines' pilots came out yesterday strongly in support of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, following mounting speculations that he had committed "pilot suicide", killing everyone on board of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight 370.

A senior pilot with MAS, speaking on condition of anonymity, urged the media to not only refrain from propagating conjectures, but to also use the age-old adage when it comes to "guilt".

"(Everyone) is innocent until proven guilty... I can fully vouch for them (all MH370 crew members), 100 per cent," he told the New Straits Times.

Another commercial airlines pilot, who also declined to be named, cautioned the media against disseminating speculations as this could lead to serious repercussions.

"It's a big no-no for the media to publish assumptions without firm evidence as this will not only affect the family members of victims, but also cause anxiety among the people. The public's confidence in MAS could deteriorate.

"We need to find the flight data recorder or black box, to know the truth. They (the media) can publish speculations but doing so can unduly and negatively affect everyone's perception towards Malaysia and MAS," he said.

Over the past few days, foreign media organisations had published speculations that Zaharie, who piloted the ill-fated Boeing 777-200ER, had deliberately plunged the jetliner into the southern Indian Ocean.

Several newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald and United Kingdom's The Daily Express, had published articles alluding to the fact that Zaharie, a veteran pilot with 18,365 hours' experience, was the only person who could have pulled off the complicated manoeuvre leading up to the crash.

The articles, quoting "experts", "investigators" and a fellow "pilot", alleged that Zaharie had purposely taken the plane to 45,000 feet, causing oxygen to run out and leaving the passengers unconscious.

The articles further posited that the jetliner flew at a predetermined altitude until it eventually ran out of fuel and crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

Describing the crash as a "deliberate act" and a "suicide mission", the news reports quoted sources close to the investigation as saying that they were looking into Zaharie's mental state.

Explaining Zaharie's possible motive for the act, The New Zealand Herald quoted a fellow MAS pilot and "longtime associate" as saying that Zaharie was facing "serious family problems", including separation from his wife and relationship problems with another woman.

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