‘Can’t Imagine’ Sabotage by Pilot, Friend Says

A friend of the missing Malaysian jet’s pilot said he can’t imagine him being involved in any deliberate act to commandeer the plane — a scenario being mentioned more often as the mystery of the flight is prolonged.

Chris Nissen, an aviation technology consultant who now lives in Portland, Ore., was a neighbor of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur for about six years until around 2006.

“I just can’t imagine, with his character and what we knew of him… it just wouldn’t make any sense that he would have anything to do with any sort of deliberate action on his part,” Nissen said. “I think he would do anything he could to preserve the lives of his passengers and the cargo.”

Nissen said he remembered the pilot as being proud of working for Malaysia Airlines, a company Zaharie was hired to work for out of school, and for which he was one of the original 777 fleet captains.

He “would have done anything for them,” Nissen said.

Malaysian authorities have begun to focus on the theory that Flight MH370 was deliberately diverted March 8 and flown off-course — but have not pointed fingers at anyone specifically.

They say police are investigating the backgrounds of all the crew and passengers of the jetliner, which vanished 10 days ago with 239 people aboard in what has become an aviation mystery for the ages. On Saturday, authorities confiscated a flight simulator from the pilot’s home.

Nissen said has talked with Zaharie’s oldest son, whose family has had to endure a deluge of speculation about their father and what happened to the missing plane.

“They’re feeling pretty isolated, I think, betrayed maybe … (people are) making a lot of accusations about their father, when they don’t have all the facts,” Nissen said.

In an interview with NBC’s Portland station KGW, Nissen said he was Zaharie’s neighbor for six years and that he was not a political radical by any stretch.

“Zaharie was a very fun-loving, nice, family-oriented guy,” he said. Their children were of a similar age, he said, and dined at restaurants and went on outings and “just had a lot of fun.”

“He had a real passion for flying … really preferred his big jets, but model airplanes, model helicopters, had his flight simulators, even then, he was really early into that.”

— Jeff Black
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