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Cathay Pacific 777 low pass that got the pilot fired

On January 20, 2008, 55-year-old Cathay Pacific Captain Ian Wilkinson and his 48-year-old co-pilot Ray Middleton took delivery of a brand new Boeing 777-300ER from the Boeing factory in Seattle. As part of the acceptance ceremony, the two pilots made a low pass of the runway complex before continuing with their onwards journey. Cathay Pacific chairman Chris Pratt was one of the fifty or sixty VIP passengers on board the flight.

On arrival in Hong Kong Wilkinson was congratulated and celebrated the arrival with airline executives. He even got a mention in the airline newsletter, with an accompanying picture of the executives raising a glass in celebration of the maiden flight. The flypast was, for all intensive purposes, considered to be 'standard' procedure, and appears to have been something that was conducted as a matter of course when taking deliveries of new aircraft.

As a result of this 'stunt', Wilkinson, who was at the time the Cathay 777 fleet manager, was sacked from his high paying job, and Wilkinson's first officer Middleton was also suspended from training duties for six months. What happened between the bit where the pilot was praised, and where the pilot was sacked seems to be a little bit of a blur!

It is suggested that the video itself was responsible for making information available to local authorities, which in turn forced Cathay into taking their own action.

Last updated December 15, 2015
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