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AirAsia Plane Crash

AirAsia Pilot Iryanto Was Best in Class at Flight School: Friend

Search for AirAsia Flight 8501 victims continues 1:41

SURABAYA, Indonesia — The pilot of the crashed AirAsia flight was the best in his class at flight school, one of his friends told NBC News on Friday. Pilot Iryanto, who like many Indonesians uses just one name, was flying the Airbus 320-200 when it crashed into the Java Sea after disappearing from radar Sunday. His friend Otto Sigit Budianto, who went to flight school with Iryanto in the 1980s, said he was shocked when he heard the news because Iryanto was such an adept aviator. "The weather at the time was very bad," Budianto told NBC News. "In the tropical area like Indonesia, especially in the rainy season ... it can be very serious for the pilots."

Pieter Daoriwoe, who also studied aviation alongside Iryanto, said he was "speechless" when he heard the news because his missing friend was such a good pilot. Daoriwoe described Iryanto as a funny man with a dapper sense of style. He said his friend was a pilot because he loved adventure, going to new places and meeting new people. Budianto added that Iryanto's 8-year-old son still does not know the likely fate of his father, and thinks he is still "at work."

Iryanto had flown for 20,537 hours, according to the airline. Authorities have recovered 30 bodies of the 162 passengers and crew aboard Flight 8501, as well as pieces of debris. Bad weather has prevented officials from investigating a dark shape detected on sonar that they say could be the wreckage of the aircraft.

In-Depth

- Katy Tur, Alexander Smith and Katie Wong