MH370 search: RMAF aircrew return home from search operation

Sergeant Mohd Nazri Mohd hugging his children at the RMAF base in Subang yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR - Two of the three Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) C-130 Hercules transport aircraft involved in the search for MH370 returned from Perth, Australia yesterday as operations wound down in preparation for the next phase.

With the autonomous underwater vehicle scan completed with nothing to show, the authorities are now preparing for a search using more sophisticated equipment.

The Joint Agency Coordination Centre said yesterday most aircraft and ships would return to their respective countries as plans were made for the next phase, which would focus on undersea search.

Malaysian authorities returned two of the Hercules aircraft immediately, while the third would fly back on Saturday.

The two Hercules, with 54 crew aboard, were welcomed yesterday by RMAF 1st Air Division commander Major-General Azizool Arif Abdul Ghani.

Azizool said the third aircraft would fly back the remaining 24 aircrew.

He said the three aircraft were involved in 43 search and recovery missions with a total of 382 flying hours in the southwestern part of the Indian Ocean.

"It was an honour for us as our team had been given the opportunity to drop sonobuoys which guided ships that were conducting the underwater search."

Among the returning crew yesterday was Sergeant Mohd Nazri Mohd.

The 34-year-old said he was elated to see his two children and wife, who is eight months pregnant, after being apart for a month.

Nazri said the mission was indeed challenging, especially as they had to endure extreme weather.

"Besides the cold weather, other challenges that we faced were the long hours needed for us to reach the search area."

Pilot Major Azman Amat, 44, said it was the hardest and most dangerous mission he had ever been on in his 24 years of service.

"We would fly between 500 to 1,000 feet above the sea during the search mission, and the rough winds complicated the mission," he said, adding that some missions had to be aborted due to thunderstorms.