SEPANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Despite having flown rescue missions into conflict areas like Libya, Lieutenant-Colonel Hasrizan Kamis, who flew the nine stranded Malaysians in North Korea home on Friday (March 31), only started breathing easy upon leaving North Korean airspace.
The airman, who has 26 years of experience under his belt, flew with a Royal Malaysian Air Force crew of two pilots, two co-pilots and two quartermasters.
Lt-Col Hasrizan said the crew had pretended to be civilian pilots to stay on the safe side.
"We got the standby order on Monday and took off on a Bombardier Global Express business jet around 10.30am on Thursday from Subang air base.
"We were not sure what to expect as we entered North Korean air space," he said when met at the Bunga Raya Complex of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Friday.
But he added there was nothing unusual during the whole trip.
"The only issue was that there was a long delay between the time we landed in Pyongyang, at 4.30pm Malaysian time, and the time we were allowed to take off, at around 7.45pm," he said, adding that he didn't know the reason for the delay.
The flight then stopped at Fuzhou Changle airport in China to refuel before returning to Malaysia.
"I am just thankful that we were able to bring our countrymen home," he said.
The nine Malaysians had spent 24 days of uncertainty in North Korea, since the ban on them leaving was put in place on March 7 amid a diplomatic spat over the murder of Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of President Kim Jong Un, in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13.
The nine were the remaining Malaysian diplomatic corps in North Korea and their families, comprising Malaysia's counsellor to North Korea Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, his wife and their three children, personal assistant to the ambassador Noor Saaidah Jamaludin and her husband and eight-month-old baby, as well as administrative assistant Nirmala Malar Kodi Singaram.