Pilot's triple wave greets well-wishers in red carpet welcome

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 January, 2005, 12:00am

China Southern Airlines pilot Hao Jianhua yesterday made history when he waved from the cockpit window after his Boeing 777 became the first mainland airliner to land at Taiwan's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport in Taoyuan in 56 years.

The excited pilot waved three times at the parade of well-wishers and took out his camera to record the moment before leading a group of flight attendants to meet government and airline officials.

A red carpet rolled out from the bridge to the hallway of the waiting room.

Fresh bouquets were offered to the air crew and China Southern president Si Xianmin , who was on board to witness the event.

Dozens of photographers jostled to take pictures of the handshakes between Mr Si and senior Taiwanese officials, including Civil Aeronautics Administration director Billy Chang Kuo-cheng and Mainland Affairs Council vice-chairman Chiu Tai-san.

The jubilant event was marked by lion dances, the popping sound of champagne corks and an exchange of gifts.

Two similar receptions greeted the remaining five aircraft from various mainland carriers that arrived at the Taoyuan airport.

It was the first time in 56 years that aircraft from the two sides had flown into each other's territory.

A seven-year-old boy did not want to miss out on the occasion. He travelled alone to Taiwan aboard a China Airlines flight, Taiwan's main carrier.

'I used to come back with my father, but he was busy and so he asked me to return by myself,' said the boy, who was taken care of by a flight attendant.

Many Taiwanese businessmen and their families, who are eligible to board their planes, returned with a handful of small gifts from the airlines. 'I got a set of stamps, boxes of cakes and candies,' said a 12-year-old girl, who was with her parents.