I love Cathay Pacific Airlines! In 2007 we saved up our mileage run miles and flew Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles to Hong Kong; after 4 days in HK, we continued on to Bangkok, Thailand. The service was incredible, showing that Cathay has earned its well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s finest airlines. But their Chief Pilot did something incredibly stupid at the end of February, something for which there is no excuse.

Cathay Pacific had just taken receipt of a Boeing-777 jetliner from Boeing at their plant in Everett, Washington. Cathay’s Chief Pilot, Ian Wilkinson, took off, circled the field once, and then made a low altitude pass of the field with his gear up! At one point he was less than 30 feet off the ground, according to a report on the FinancialPost.com website. (You can see photos on this website.) Buzzing the runway at just a few dozen feet off the ground? Think of Tom Cruise as Maverick buzzing the aircraft carrier in Top Gun, you’ll get the idea!

A video of the flyby is now available online. (Thanks to xbob for providing the link.) The low pass looks even worse in video than it does in photographs.

Boeing’s website reports the cost of such an aircraft as 250 – 279 million dollars. This idiotic, unsafe action by Wilkinson is only allowed if permission is requested and granted in advance. In this case, it was not. (At least Maverick asked for permission to buzz the carrier.)

Cathay Pacific did the right thing in response to Wilkinson’s unsafe action: they fired him.

Perhaps they also should confiscate all copies of Top Gun from the pilots’ locker room