AirAsia pilot one of military academy's best graduates
Ina Parlina and Wahyoe Boediwardhana
The Jakarta Post
The pilot of AirAsia flight QZ8501, Iriyanto, 53, is described by colleagues and neighbors as a warm figure with an extraordinary performance as a jet fighter pilot prior to taking early retirement to join commercial airlines.
Iriyanto started out his career as an F-5 and F-16 fighter pilot after having graduated from the Adi Sucipto Air Force pilot school in 1983.
He joined the 14th squadron at Iswahjudi Air Force Base (AFB) in Madiun, East Java, staying for around 10 years.
'He was one of the best graduates,' said former coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Djoko Suyanto, who once trained Iriyanto, as quoted by tempo.co.
Adisucipto Air Base commander First Marshal Yadi I Sutanadika deemed Iriyanto a 'smart pilot'.
'Iriyanto was known as one of the 'Flight Leaders' on F-5 Tigers, the leading fighter jet in the 1980s,' said Yadi, who once served with Iriyanto in the 14th squadron, on Monday, as quoted by Antara news agency.
In the mid-1990s, Iriyanto took early retirement and landed a job with commercial airline Adam Air, which was forced to close in 2008 after a string of accidents.
Iriyanto also served with Merpati Airline, Sriwijaya Airline prior to joining AirAsia.
AirAsia said Iriyanto had logged a total of 20,537 flying hours, of which 6,053 flying hours were logged during his tenure with AirAsia, while the copilot, French national Remi Emmanual Plesel, had 2,247 hours.
Iriyanto, born on Dec. 12, 1961, married Widya Sukati Putri before settling in Sidoarjo, East Java ' an hour's drive from Surabaya in East Java where flight QZ8501 departed for Singapore.
The couple have two children ' Angela Anggi Ranastianis, 25, and eight-year-old Arya Galih Gegana.
'Papa, come home, I still need you. Bring back my papa. Papa, please come home. Papa needs to be found. Papa should come home,' wrote Angela on her Path page late on Sunday, begging for her father to come home after the aircraft, carrying 162 people, disappeared on Sunday morning.
Iriyanto, who has a penchant for classic motorcycles, is a member of the local big motorcycle club, MBC.
Three days before his last flight, Iriyanto went to Yogyakarta to commemorate the seventh day of the death of his younger brother, Edi, as well as to take a vacation with his family. Edi died due to illness.
'The last time I met Mas Ir [Iriyanto] was three days ago,' said Hendro Kusumo Broto, Iriyanto's cousin, as quoted in kompas.com on Sunday.
According to Hendro, Iriyanto went to Yogyakarta with his two children, but later left Yogyakarta for Surabaya to go to work, while his two children stayed in Yogyakarta on vacation.
Iriyanto reportedly was known to his neighbors for active social engagement and was active in the community in Sidoarjo where he lived, serving as a head of the neighborhood unit (RT) for two years.
'[He] put potted plants on the sidewalks from the main entrance [of the neighborhood unit] so that it looked green,' said Bagianto Djojonegoro, an adviser to the Community Unit (RW) where his residence is located.
According to Bagianto, Iriyanto, who flew around four times a week, often spent his days off with his family and neighbors. The missing pilot was also known for being active in the mosque.
Iriyanto's neighbors gathered and conducted prayers for his safety at his house in Pondok Jati housing complex in Sidoarjo, East Java, on Sunday evening.
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