Thursday 5 March 2015

Missing Voices, Still Lives: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 One Year On

This week marks the one year anniversary since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing. In a week when there will be renewed discussion about what happened the aircraft and its 239 passengers and crew, the families of those on board are no closer today to finding out what happened their loved ones. Sakinab Shah's brother Ari was the captain of flight MH370 and she and her family have endured a particularly difficult time at the hands of the media. This week she wanted to commemorate her brother and share something of the person he was with others. Sakinab has been kind enough to share her thoughts and words here.


Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah

(Sakinab Shah)

(Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah - photo courtesy of Sakinab Shah)
On March 8th 2014, my life and the lives of all the families and friends of passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 changed forever. 239 people are still missing and they have no voices. It has been left to us to give back their voices. One year on, we still hear their voices as clear as if it were yesterday.

At the time of the tragic occurrence of MH370, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah or Ari (as he was fondly called), was 53 years old married to his childhood sweetheart Faizah Khanum, had two sons (Ahmad Idris & Ahmad Seth), a daughter Aishah and a grandson from Idris.

People can be very hard and callous. As if to rub salt into the wound, stories of Zaharie and Faizah abound in the media declaring their marriage was on the rocks, that there was an impending divorce suit in the Syariah Court... Blah, blah, blah... all junk, all rubbish. Sorry, but you the media failed us horribly.

Besides being a doting father, Ari was generous, kind and cool with a warm sense of humour. He had a passion for life, for family and above all for flying. I wasn't kidding when I said that if he could he would have attached wings to himself. He had as much as a man could possibly want in his life; a professional career, family, friends, health and a more than comfortable life. He was very open-minded, coming from a family with a pretty wide range of nationalities through intermarriages. He got on extremely well with family members. The younger ones simply adored him... their Uncle Ari. He was very savvy at DIY. He could fix anything; garden fixtures, floor tiles, old doors, etc. My home and the homes of my sisters and brothers are not short of the things that remind us of him every day; framed pictures, leaking windows now repaired, a fish pond levelled up and nicely tiled, a new TV installed... I could go on and on.

The rollercoaster ride since March 2014 has never really stopped, except perhaps momentarily. I want the world to know here is a loving man who will stop at nothing to render help when it is needed. His presence during every family function never failed to light up the occasions. He was always sought after by sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews alike… a man of integrity. He was a generous brother and uncle who often came bearing gifts from his overseas trips.

I want to relate my daughters’ memorable occasions with him. During his younger days he would take my girls kite flying. On one of those days, my girls often relate how when the line snagged and the kite blew away. He packed them all in the car and drove to hunt for the runaway kite which he finally located in someone else’s possession. He negotiated to have the kite back, and they were thrilled. They still remember this today and such fond memories of him since childhood.

I remember taking a road trip with him some two years back from Kuala Lumpur to Krabi in Thailand. It was a long journey, filled with laughter and humour, because he brought out the best in every situation. With his wit and pleasant demeanour, he managed to solve some issues at the border crossing between Malaysia and Thailand. That was a good experience for me and my sister. We are proud of him. It was during this trip that we talked about doing a similar road trip to Italy which unfortunately will never happen.

There was a time in my hour of need when Ari came to my a knight in shining armour. My ailing husband whom Ari had great respect and affection for was seeking treatment in a neighbouring country whilst I came home to attend to some legal matters. Then I received the dreadful news of his passing. Shrouded in my own grief and misery, my mind was running a blank as to what to do next. The kids were with my husband. Whilst trying to figure things out, low and behold my brother Ari was at the gate calling out my name, and I thought he was at work only to find out later that he took emergency leave. In a nutshell, he came in, hugged me, and told me to go get ready because we had to rush to the airport. He had already booked tickets for the next flight out of Kuala Lumpur to join my mourning kids and my late husband. He didn't say very much but he did the necessary. Every minute of that encounter lingers vividly in my mind though it was some six years ago. I will forever cherish his concern for my welfare.

Ari was a simple village boy of humble beginnings but had high ambitions of becoming a commercial pilot. With the current chatter about MH370 involving big name media organisations like National Geographic, I feel compelled to divulge some information about Captain Zaharie's scholastic ‘prowess’ and academic achievements. I am doing this with some regret knowing that he would not be too happy at this disclosure. Throughout his secondary schooling he was by no means a student genius. In fact he was just an average student. Such being the situation, he certainly didn't have the right foundation to be able to figure out a scheme to hijack his own plane and then to disappear into thin air without leaving a trace.

Without a doubt he had a strong sense for loyalty towards Malaysia Airlines (MAS). His aviation training in the Philippines was sponsored by MAS. It was there he served as a pilot and later as a training captain. He had an unblemished flying record of eighteen thousand plus hours, I am proud to say. It is sheer dedication to this profession that prompted him to set up his own home flight simulator just to equip himself in order to give a better teaching experience to his students, all at his own expense.

As a training captain he often expressed joy and satisfaction with the camaraderie he shared with all his students. Following March 8th 2014, we received feedback from many of these students, both locally and internationally, all in praise of his accommodating ways and generosity at sharing his knowledge. I know for certain Zaharie opted to remain loyal to MAS despite a few challenging offers from other airlines that came his way. It was his love for family that made him want to remain with MAS until his retirement.

When the devastating news of MH370 was broadcast, like everybody else, we were also in a state of shock and disbelieve. The last time we met with Zaharie was some two weeks prior to March 8th when we were together for dinner. He was no different from his normal, usual self. He was loud, jovial, and full of chuckles with his share of jokes. After March 8th, confusion and contradiction of statements by people in authority seemed to be the order of the day. There were so many questions regarding Captain Zaharie by netizens, so in good faith we decided to share some of his remarkable attributes by way of videos with the public.

There were many consoling and enlightening comments. This is very much appreciated but some of the media pounced upon it like hungry starved wolves with their twisted and conniving misinterpretations of the visuals. Disgusting! At one stage we issued a lawyer's letter to a certain local media outlet to put a stop to their rumour mongering.

We continue to pray and hope that this bizarre mystery will unravel soon. We stand firm in the belief that no matter how long the night, dawn will still break. As things stand today, with no tangible evidence to show, NO ONE, be you politician, scientist, aviation expert, plane crash investigator, pilot, retired pilot, media or whoever else... NONE OF YOU have a right to blame Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah for any wrongdoing.

Ari was no ordinary brother to all his siblings. He has a special place in our hearts. We are proud to call him our brother. There are many other wonderful and interesting traits of his which I prefer to keep within the family.

Sakinab Shah

(Sister of Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah)

March, 2015.


  1. His students should come forward and talk about their experiences with him. I would love to hear it.

  2. Many of his friends and students did at the time. Alas, much of that gets washed away over time with so much of the other speculative nonsense written about him.

  3. Great Videos! Great memories. My Condolences

  4. Sakinab , GOD bless you dear friends and family / loved ones. Thank you for this beautiful page and videos, could not stop sharing tears for everyone's losses and pain MH370 GOD Bless you Capt. Zaharie. I know if you could, you would have saved this mystery - My Condolences to each and every family member , friends & loved ones - Leon