Malaysia Airlines co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid was a novice on his first Boeing 777 flight as a fully-approved pilot in the cockpit of the ill-fated plane, it has emerged.
Families were have now been told flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people onboard, had "ended" west of Perth "far from any possible landing sites".
Instead of heading for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur as intended, the aircraft had switched direction, heading out over the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.
Airline boss Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a press conference the March 8 flight to Beijing was the first time Fariq had flown the 777 without a check pilot, who ensures new pilots understand the procedures and capabilities of an aircraft.
"The first five flights, the co-pilot normally flies with what we call the check co-pilot,” he said.
“He actually passed the first five flights. We do not see any problem with him.”
Fariq, 27, had 2763 hours of flying experience, though he was inexperienced on the 777.
Aviation specialists said his inexperience would probably not have posed any risk to the flight.
“The Malaysians are very thorough… I don’t think it is significant at all,” a former 777 pilot told UK's The Telegraph newspaper.
Police have so far found nothing suspicious about Fariq or Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the 53-year-old pilot.
Zaharie, who had 18,365 hours experience, sometimes flew as a check pilot, though not on this flight. Investigators believe the aircraft was sabotaged.
- Fairfax Media