PETALING JAYA: The Old Frees community on social media was all abuzz as the pilot of the ill-fated MH370, Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was a student of the Penang Free School (PFS).
Ritzeraynn Rashid, a former staff of Malaysia Airlines, remembers Zaharie both as a schoolmate and as a colleague.
“He was a very pleasant and humble person. He was always smiling and very cheerful,” said Ritzeraynn. who joined MAS from 1979 until 1991.
“Zaharie was a very experienced pilot, too. My first contact with him was when we worked together in MAS in 1981 on the B737 services. He was the co-pilot and I was the leading purser. We shared a lot of good memories together.
“Interestingly enough, it was not until the later years that I learnt that Capt Zaharie was from PFS. It gave us more to talk about whenever we flew together, especially about the teachers and headmasters. They were our favourite catch-up stories,” he said.
Another community member, Capt Abdul Manaf Hasan, was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, when the news came.
He described Zaharie as a “superb pilot” with vast experience on many types of aircraft, including the B777.
The other aircraft he flew included the F50, B737 and the A300. In the mid-1990s, Capt Zaharie was also the manager of the Fokker 50 fleet in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
“Zaharie was also an examiner authorised by the DCA to conduct simulator tests for pilots,” said Capt Abdul Manaf, who knew Zaharie back in 1974 when they were in the same school.
“He was a really jovial guy, and we used to hang out together in Subang Jaya when we were bachelors,” said Capt Abdul Manaf, who has been with MAS since 1979.
The current headmaster of PFS, Jalil Saad, expressed his sadness on behalf of the school.
Jalil, who was also two years his senior, said Zaharie was good student.
“He was in Form 5 Science 2. To be in that class, you must be extra special, especially in PFS. His parents brought him up well and I am sure he learnt a lot from the school,” added Jalil.
Schoolmate Franklin Lim said Capt Zaharie, who joined MAS in 1981, had clocked over 18,000 flying hours.
He lived in Shah Alam with his family.
Another classmate from PFS, Jason Lee, 53, said the last time he saw Capt Zaharie was in 2010 during their batch’s reunion dinner.
“We had a great time reminiscing on the past, talking about the good old days we had in school.
“It was his long-time ambition to be a pilot and he always told us back then how nice it was to fly around,” he said.