Flying MH17 remains home was most difficult flight in 33 years: MAS chief pilot

​Chief pilot Captain Datuk Missman Leham has been flying for Malaysia Airlines for 33 years.

Yet, his most difficult task was the 12-hour flight that carried the remains of 20 victims of the MH17 aircraft that was shot down in Eastern Ukraine.

Missman (below) said that it was the most emotional flight for him because he knew who the special passengers on board the MH6129 aircraft were.

Photo: Astro Awani

He added that he knew some of the victims personally.

"(I) already felt sad two, three days before the departure, because we know this is the most important flight and awaited by many, specifically for the next-of-kin of the victims." 

He stated that the journey was emotionally overwhelming but the team kept their feelings in check to carry out the important task of bringing the victims home to their families.

“As soon as I entered the plane, I was overcome with grief reminiscing my friends who perished in the tragedy and the sorrow that their families had to go through.

He expressed relief that his prayers for a good flight were answered. The flight was smooth as there was cooperation from the various countries he flew over. 

Missman said that every nation that the flight passed over were respectful.

"For example, in Iran. Normally, they will demand for the entry number when passing over the country, but this time, their communication came very early.

"They informed us 'no need entry number, you can go through'."

Missman also said that they were less firm on that day.

He also told reporters that he spoke to the remains before taking off and said "we will take you back". 

The MH17 tragedy claimed the lives of 298 passengers and crew including 43 Malaysians.