Missing Malaysia flight: What we know about the 239 on board

Investigators of missing Malaysia Airlines fight 370's disappearance are checking the backgrounds of the passenger jet's 227 passengers and 12 crew members, as well as the ground crew. CBS News rounds up that latest on the people on board the flight which vanished early on March 8.

Follow the latest updates on the search here and the investigation here, and for complete, ongoing coverage, visit our special section: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Nationalities on board: Of the flight's 227 passengers, 152 are from China, 38 are from Malaysia and the rest are from countries across the globe, including India, Australia, France, Indonesia, Ukraine, New Zealand and the United States. All 12 crew members are Malaysian.

The pilot: Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of flying experience. Known as an avid aviation enthusiast, Zaharie had set up an elaborate flight simulator in his home, which has been confiscated by Malaysian authorities.

According to Malaysia Airlines, Zaharie is certified by Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation as a flight simulator examiner. Born in northern Penang state, the bald-headed captain and grandfather is also an enthusiastic handyman and proud home cook, known for bringing food he cooked himself to community events.

A supporter of Malaysia's main opposition parties, he had volunteered to be a poll monitor in recent elections.

The co-pilot: Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007 and with just 2,763 hours of flight experience, he had only recently started co-piloting the sophisticated Boeing 777. The son of a high-ranking civil servant in Selangor state, Fariq was described as a "good boy, a good Muslim, humble and quiet" by Ahmad Sarafi Ali Asrah, the head of his community mosque, in an interview with the Associated Press. He was filmed recently by a crew from "CNN Business Traveler," landing a Boeing 777-200, the same model of the twin-aisle plane that went missing.

Fariq has drawn greatest scrutiny after the revelation he and another pilot invited two women boarding their aircraft to sit in the cockpit for a flight from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in 2011.

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Co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, left, and Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, right, were in the cockpit of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

CBS News

Aviation engineer on board: Malaysian police are investigating Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat, 29, a Malaysian flight engineer among the passengers, as they focus on anyone on board who had technical flying knowledge. According to reports, Khairul has indicated on social media that had worked for a private jet charter company. Reuters reports that Khairul had more than 10 years experience as a flight engineer, but that as an engineer specializing in executive jets, he would "not necessarily have all the knowledge needed to divert and fly a large jetliner."

Selamat Omar, Khairul's father, told AP that there is no reason to suspect him, adding: "It is impossible for him to be involved in something like this."

Passengers with stolen passports: Early speculation leaned toward terrorism after two men, later identified as Iranians, boarded the plane with stolen passports. Authorities later determined Pouria Nourmohammadi Mehrdad, 19, and Seyed Mohammed Reza Delavar, 29, were migrants seeking to travel to Europe illegally. The two men were not found to have links to terrorism.

The other passengers: The passengers included artists, business people, worshipers and vacationers. Five passengers were children under 5 years old, including a two-year-old, the youngest passenger. The oldest passenger was 76.

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Philip Wood is shown in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Wood Family
There were three Americans, including Philip Wood, 50, a technical storage executive at IBM Malaysia who was planning to move from Beijing to Malaysia with his girlfriend, Sarah Bajc. "The clothes in his closet are the worst," Bajc told CBS News' Seth Doane. "I open the closet and it smells like him." The two other Americans have been identified as Nicole Meng, 4, and Yan Zhang, 2. It's not known with whom they were traveling.

"We want to send out our thoughts and prayers to all of the families that have been affected, but particularly our American families, who I can only imagine what they're going through with all of the uncertainty that's taken place," President Barack Obama told the Dallas Fox affiliate.

China Daily reports that 30 passengers were part of a group of artists and calligraphers who had traveled to Malaysia to attend an art exhibit in Kuala Lumpur. There was also a celebrated Uighur artist called Memetjan Abla.

China announced Tuesday that background checks of the 154 Chinese citizens on board turned up no links to terrorism, apparently ruling out the possibility that Uighur Muslim militants who have been blamed for terror attacks within China might have been involved in the disappearance.

There were 20 employees from a Texas-based company, Freescale Semiconductor, 12 of whom were from Malaysia, and eight of whom were from China. And there was a Pennsylvania woman who worked for an American chemical company. Mei Ling Chng, a native of Malaysia, worked for Eastman Chemical Co. and lived in the Pittsburgh suburb, where she purchased a home last October.

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