MH370 pilot

Inside the affluent life of the MH370 pilot blamed for the plane’s disappearance

His family say he ‘loved life’

When the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing with 239 people on board in 2014 after veering dramatically off course to Beijing, everyone’s accusations turned to the pilot. Publications claimed he had marital problems, mental health conditions, money trouble, and just about any other life crisis, to link his supposed instability to the vanishing plane.

But, in Netflix’s new documentary, MH370: The Plane That Disappeared, Zaharie Ahmad Shah is painted in a different light: A committed pilot who was victim of an unjustified media frenzy after he disappeared alongside his hundreds of his passengers. So, in case you’re curious about the last man on MH370 to successfully communicate with the rest of the world, here’s everything you need to know about the life of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah:

He’d been a pilot for 33 years when MH370 went missing

Zaharie was 53 years old and became a pilot with Malaysian Airlines in 1981, 33 years before MH370 went missing. He’d flown for a total of 18,423 hours and his co-workers considered him one of the best captains the airline had. He’d been flying on B777s (the type of plane the MH370 was) for 16 years and even had a flight simulator in his house to practise and make YouTube videos.  His flight simulator was investigated after suggestions he’d used it to plan the MH370 hijacking but evidence of this was never found.

MH370 pilot

Credit: Netflix (Captain Zaharie with co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid)

He had a wife and three children who claimed his innocence

Zaharie had been married for 30 years, had three children and numerous grandchildren at the time the MH370 went missing. In 2026, his sister Sakinab Shah firmly denied her brother had anything to do with MH370’s disappearance, telling the BBC:

“We were brought up in a very decent family. A simple village boy, from poor beginnings, and he became a commercial pilot. It was a dream come true. He stayed with Malaysia Airlines for 30 years, recorded over 18,000 hours of flying time. No bad record, nothing untoward. He was just a few years from retirement. Do you think he would want to throw this all away?”

Sakinab added that Zaharie had “no money problems, no mental health problems, no marriage problems, no drug or alcohol problems, no history of odd behaviour” unlike what the tabloid press had claimed. She also told the Guardian: “Until and unless we have evidence, tangible evidence, I maintain his innocence. Simply put, the suicide story is but another story. My brother loved life, he loved his lifestyle, period.”

He lived in a luxury gated community

MH370 pilot

As Zaharie’s sister mentioned in her interviews, he had done well for himself as a pilot. He lived in a luxury gated community called Laman Seri in Shah Alam, which was made up of 33 double-storey bungalows and 70 semi-detached houses costing around £500,000 or 2.8 million Malaysian ringgit. In his spare time, Zaharie was said to have loved cooking and fishing and was extremely happy with the lifestyle he’d worked hard to achieve for himself and his family.

He protested the government on Facebook

Like most people, Zaharie liked to rant about politicians on Facebook, which later fuelled speculation that he’d used flight MH370 to perform a murder-suicide. He called the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, a “moron” and made other negative comments about the government, who owned Malaysian Airlines.

MH370’s investigation determined his innocence

Despite endless articles and online speculation that Zaharie was the reason MH370 had gone missing, in July 2018, the Malaysian government released and lead investigator Kok Soo Chon, released a report that dismissed this allegation. “We have examined the pilot and the first officer and we are quite satisfied with their background, with their training, with their mental health,” he said. “We are not of the opinion that it could have been an event committed by the pilot.”

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Inside MH370’s cargo theory that claims to link the United States Air Force to the missing plane

• Phantom cell phone theory: Why MH370 passengers’ mobiles still rang after plane was lost 

• Every location debris has been found from missing flight MH370 over the past nine years