First in: flight touches down after non-stop polar route

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 July, 1998, 12:00am

Andrew Little stepped off a plane and into history when he became the first passenger to arrive at Chek Lap Kok.


Briton Mr Little, 29, and his wife Rhian, 28, were among 137 passengers on board Cathay Pacific flight CX889 from New York which also entered the record books as the first non-stop flight from the US east coast to Hong Kong.


'It's absolutely splendid - a great honour for myself and my wife. We are delighted. This can be a second honeymoon,' said Mr Little, the official observer for the flight which travelled over the North Pole through air space never before used by a commercial airliner.


The flight, dubbed Polar One because of its historic route, took 15 hours, 35 minutes and 53 seconds - a time Cathay hopes will make the Guinness Book of World Records as well as setting the stage for a regular non-stop service.


Applause broke out as the Boeing 747-400 touched down at 6.20am.


The passengers were welcomed by Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang, Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Cathay Pacific chairman Peter Sutch, along with other aviation officials.


The cockpit crew said the first landing at Chek Lap Kok was the highlight of their careers, though they would miss Kai Tak which they described as a 'pilot's airport'.


'It's a sad day to see it close,' said Captain Mike Lowes, who was in charge of take-off and landing.


'It was always the challenge, but only in tricky conditions. I feel very nostalgic about it all.


'There would have been a few tears shed by pilots in Hong Kong. It was an airport you had to respect more than anything.


'But we're going into a new era - just look at [the new airport]. Its unbelievable.' For the first passengers, however, the glamour soon wore off. Mrs Little spent 20 minutes trying to get a ticket for the Airport Express from the machine before she and husband declared: 'It's chaos.'