Kuala Lumpur, March 14 (Reuters): Friends and family of the co-pilot who flew the missing Malaysia Airlines jet said the 27-year-old was religious and serious about his career, countering news reports suggesting he was a cockpit Romeo who was reckless on the job.
Fariq Abdul Hamid, who joined the national flag carrier in 2007, was helping to fly the Boeing 777 whose disappearance on Saturday has turned into one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
Australian media reported that Fariq and a pilot invited two women to join them in the cockpit on a flight from Thailand to Malaysia in 2011, where he smoked and flirted with them. Jonti Roos, a South African living in Melbourne, confirmed to Reuters that the incident took place but said she did not feel that Fariq behaved irresponsibly.
Malaysia Airlines said it was shocked by the allegations in the report, which was based on photos of the apparent cockpit meeting and an interview with Roos. Smoking has been banned on almost all commercial flights since the late 1990s.
The report also angered some of Fariq’s friends, some of whom took to social media to rebut the report first aired by Australian Channel Nine’s A Current Affair programme.
Fariq, first officer of Flight MH370, had clocked a relatively few 2,700 hours of flying. He had wanted to become a pilot from his school days, said a relative who asked not to be identified. “He is a good student. He worked very hard to get where he was. His parents are so proud of him,” said the relative, who had visited Fariq’s family home for prayers in the outskirts of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. “And now, there is news that he was someone else. It is a very cruel thing to do at this time. We just want him to be safe,” the relative said.