Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Forgotten hero

Indonesia's aviation world has lost one of its early pioneers with the death of Petit Muharto on March 8, 2000. He was 81, and he had lived through the remaining years of Dutch rule, World War II, the struggle for independence and the nation-building years which brought Indonesia from the young country it was to the giant it is today.

His zest for freedom and adventure as a young man compelled him to become a self-taught pilot at a time when almost all Indonesians were merely awed at contraptions that allowed men to fly.

During Indonesia's desperate fight for independence, he piloted the republic's first Dakota-RI 002 that repeatedly broke through a Dutch blockade of Yogyakarta where Indonesia's freedom fighters were supposed be surrounded and confined by the Dutch. These perilous feats carried deadly risks and demanded courage and ingenuity. As a pilot, he flew with noted American pilots like Bob Freeberg, Cobly and Jim Fleming. His trusty radio operator was Pak Budiardjo.

As a high-school teacher, his students will remember him as a teacher who taught by example. His desire for national independence and sovereign recognition for his country inspired them. As a fighter, he taught them also to fight for such honorable aspirations. Many will still wonder how through the following years he would adamantly stand by his principles and how he sacrificed for them.

Many know now how right he was about the coming of Indonesia's dark episode as the young nation moving along the path of history. Alas, he was too far ahead then, and when the dreaded momentum finally came, he was lost in the commotion. Someone else had stolen the limelight.

Many of his friends and those who knew him will remember him as a leader, a fighter, a pilot, a diplomat, a rebel, an inspiration and, perhaps, a forgotten hero. One day, hopefully, history will speak for itself. Meanwhile, from a loving son to a great father... goodbye and safe passage on your final everlasting flight as we stay behind and watch you go.