JEDDAH — It was 17 hours of sadness and silence. This is how Ali Al-Shehri, Captain of Crown Prince Sultan’s airplane, described the last flight he would carry out for his beloved leader.
Al-Shehri said he flew thousands of kilometers inside and outside the Kingdom with the Crown Prince over several years. He will never forget Prince Sultan’s infectious smile.
Each flight had its beautiful memories, said Al-Shehri, who enrolled in the Royal Air Force 20 years ago. But there was little to feel good about when he flew Prince Sultan’s body from New York to Riyadh Airbase earlier this week. “The last one was hard for me and for everyone on board,” Al-Shehri said.
“He was close to everyone. Before every flight, the Crown Prince would stand at the door of the plane, shake the hand of every crew member and enquire about our health before we could even ask him,” he said.
“Those were sad and difficult moments when we received the sad news and the instructions to fly to New York to bring the body back. We broke out into tears. When we got there, we realized what a big loss it was for everyone. We could see it in the eyes of the princes and everybody who was present. I felt that a wave of sadness had enveloped everyone.”
Al-Shehri said he would not forget the last time he saw the Crown Prince alive on the plane.
“I witnessed how he listened to the requests of a citizen and ordered his aide to meet the person’s request.” — Okaz/SG