Late pilot lived out his dream

Final farewell: Mourners gathering around the coffin carrying the remains of Muhammad Firdaus at the Masjid Jamek Sungai Nibong Besar in Bayan Lepas where he was laid to rest. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Despite his small build, the late Commander Muhammad Firdaus Ramli (pic) succeeded in living out his dream and walking tall as a pilot.

His mother Indon Hussin, 67, said he had always dreamt of flying a fighter jet, but due to his small physique, had joined the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) instead.

“He was affectionately known among his colleagues as ‘Tuan Kecik’ (because of his size),” she said when met at the family residence in Pantai Jerejak yesterday.

Indon said she and her husband, who have keys to their son’s house in Manjung, Perak, were just there a day before tragedy struck on Tuesday, to help with some cleaning.

“He happened to return alone and we met... that was the last time we saw him alive,” she said solemnly.

Muhammad Firdaus, 44, was stationed in Sabah but had returned home to Manjung briefly.

On Tuesday, he piloted the AgustaWestland M503-3 helicopter – one of the two ill-fated aircraft that crashed in the Lumut naval base in Perak – with seven people on board.

Indon also described her son as the backbone of the family.

“He would always look into our needs even if he was stationed far away,” she said.

Muhammad Firdaus’ sister-in-law Adlina Nordin, 40, said he was a jovial and outgoing person.

“He was a family man and had a four-year-old son.

“His wife and son were with him in Sabah where he had been based for the past two years,” said Adlina, adding that the navy pilot was the eldest of seven children.

“As the eldest, he always helped his family and looked out for them,” said the customer service officer, adding they saw him in Lumut for Hari Raya recently.

Adlina, too, remembered that Muhammad Firdaus had always wanted to be a pilot and joined the navy.

“He was living his dream and loved his job,” she said.

Muhammad Firdaus was one of 10 navy personnel who perished after their helicopters collided during a rehearsal exercise at the Lumut naval base.

The helicopters were making a fly-past rehearsal for a parade to be held in conjunction with RMN’s 90th anniversary.

The celebration has since been cancelled.

Meanwhile, thousands of people, including members of the force in uniform, turned up yesterday to pay their last respects to Muhammad Firdaus at the Masjid Jamek Sungai Nibong Besar in Bayan Lepas on the Penang island.

As his remains reached the mosque at about 7.40pm, it was greeted with a guard of honour as RMN personnel stood in attention to salute their fallen comrade.

Muhammad Firdaus was then laid to rest at 8.20pm after the solat jenazah (prayer for the departed).

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