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City Weekend

Homeward bound: Hong Kong home-made plane’s incredible round-the-world journey

Cathay Pacific pilot Hank Cheng spoke to City Weekend about the highlights of his landmark journey in his Inspiration B-KOO ahead of its return to the city on November 13 after three months and 50 countries

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 November, 2016, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 November, 2016, 6:00pm

1. What has been the highlight of the trip and why?

The best bit has been flying itself. People ask me how I deal with being in a cramped place for a long period of time, but for me that’s a highlight because I get to sit in a plane I have put together myself. I am bringing together the hopes and dreams of the team. It started off as a personal project but it became a bigger group; and now I have been taking their hopes around the world. I also enjoyed flying with my wife for a couple of legs of the trip.

2. What has been the most challenging part of the trip and why? The weather has been a challenge. The plane is well-equipped but we cannot fly through bad weather. We cannot fly as high as a jetliner. Flying over the ocean for 15 hours was a challenge that I will not be able to do again. Going over the Pacific Ocean on my own was hard. But call me crazy, just sitting and looking out of the window is beautiful; there has been some great scenery. And flying solo has been a challenge. If I make a mistake, there is no one to back me up. It can be very scary.

And they’re off! Hong Kong’s first home-made plane to attempt round the world trip takes flight

3. What would you have done differently in terms of the planning or execution of the journey? It’s partly a joke but I think we would have built a slightly bigger aeroplane, not for personal comfort, but just to make it go a bit faster. But I have enjoyed every part of this. Even going to the toilet in the aeroplane has been an interesting enough experience in itself.

4. What have you learned about yourself from the expedition? At certain times it has been very stressful. I have just had five days delay in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and I am due to be back in Hong Kong on November 13. I have tried very hard to leave it to the team with some of the burden, so I can just concentrate on flying. I learned about how I deal with stress. I saw a side of myself that I would not see otherwise.

5. What has been the best thing about having passengers with you on parts of the trip? And their most annoying habits? Mainly to keep myself company and to have a shared experience. I really can’t complain about anything they’ve done. I truly enjoy having people with me.

6. How has it been living away from your family and friends? I think I have made more friends on this trip than I have in the last seven years. Almost all the places I have been to, there has been someone meeting me or flying with me. That is the biggest satisfaction of the trip, the people element. It made me realise that I have missed out on a lot of events and family gatherings while building this plane.

7. What have you done to keep homesickness at bay? The hardest bit has been being away from my kids, but with technology I have been able to see them on video calls, so that has helped. I have enjoyed writing

8. How have you kept yourself entertained? Doing interviews like this! And looking out the window to see the clouds and sun. On a technical side, there are always things to do to keep me awake.

9. What three things have you missed the most? I was missing local Chinese food, so when I stopped in Toronto, a friend took me for dim sum. I have missed yum cha so much!

10. As you come to the end of the trip, how do you feel when you reflect on what you have achieved? I am starting to get a bit of post-project blues. Part of me is relieved, but at the same time it is sad. Looking back, it is not just an achievement for myself, it is an achievement for everybody; it’s a team effort.

11. What are you most looking forward to doing when you arrive home in Hong Kong? I can’t wait to go home and have a decent meal with my family. And just to explore Hong Kong again.