"His performance has been always above excellent, but he kept aiming to better himself," said one of the Air Force officers who had flown with him for around four years.
The body was brought with honours to his home in Thiruvananthapuram, amidst indescribable grief of his parents. The funeral is scheduled in Kozhikode - the pilot's ancestral home - with full honours.
The black box of the crashed Sukhoi - 30 has been sent for further investigations to unearth the reason and details of the crash.
"Last time when he came to meet me, he gave me a model of Sukhoi Su-30," remembers his teacher Soni George from Loyola school in Thiruvananthapuram.
Squadron Leader D Pankaj was cremated in Tezpur in Assam on Thursday.
The Sukhoi-30 aircraft took off from Tezpur around 10.30 am on May 23 on a routine training mission as part of a two-aircraft formation. The jet went off the radar and lost radio contact around 11.10 am near the Doulasang area in Arunachal Pradesh bordering China.
The pilots could not eject at the time of the crash, reveals an analysis of the jet's Flight Data Recorder and some other articles recovered from the crash site.