Making in-flight announcements in a “loving voice”, Zaharie helped to dispel the anxiety that the then 12-year-old Sarah felt when she was travelling alone.
“His calm yet confident voice still rings in my ears … (relaying) intercom messages, welcoming the passengers, telling them about the weather,” the now 27-year-old customer service consultant told The Star yesterday.
Zaharie, 53, is the captain of the missing MH370. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and has 18,365 hours of flying experience.
As a frequent flyer with the national carrier during her teen years, Sarah met Zaharie during a domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru in 1999.
Due to her parents’ separation, she and her elder brother would fly to Johor Baru to visit their father.
The then young traveller, who enjoyed priority care on board the aircraft, remembers Zaharie’s warm smile and friendly personality.
“After we landed, he asked me if I liked flying. I said yes as it was a comfortable ride,” said Sarah.
At 18, her first job as a maintenance supervisor in Singapore’s Changi Airport caused her to cross paths with many pilots and crew members.
“I met him again then – he was still a cheerful person, he had not changed,” she said of their second close encounter.
As Zaharie put his “whole heart into flying an aircraft”, Sarah remains confident that the pilot would have done his level best to manoeuvre the MH370 flight to safety.
Unfortunately, she did not have a chance to thank him for helping her feel at home while on board and ensuring that it was a safe flight.
“I pray that he will come back – I would definitely say it (thanks) to him!” she added.
On Facebook, netizen Michelle Phua said her brother-in-law’s friend was on board the aircraft that disappeared. “Please pray for them and their families.”
Jon Navaratnam addressed in-flight supervisor Patrick Francis Gomes: “The entire congregation of the St Francis Xavier church PJ are praying for you and your crewmates and the passengers aboard.”
Renusha Devi Gunasekaran called on netizens to pray for her neighbour, chief steward Andrew Nari. “I really hope every one of them is gonna be safe and be back home,” she said.
– THE STAR