Cathay Pacific chairman Christopher Pratt and the airline's director of engineering were on the flight deck of a new airliner when the pilot performed a Top Gun-style low-flying manoeuvre that led to his sacking. Mr Pratt and Christopher Gibbs were invited to sit in jump seats on the flight deck as chief pilot Ian Wilkinson swooped to within 8.5 metres of a runway in Seattle in a Boeing 777 on January 31, the Sunday Morning Post has learned. Two Cathay first officers were also standing, unharnessed, inside the cockpit door behind Mr Wilkinson, his co-pilot Ray Middleton and the two executives during the fly-by, which has been criticised by fellow pilots as a dangerous and irresponsible piece of showmanship. Management sources said Mr Pratt had no idea the fly-by was unauthorised. Mr Wilkinson, 55, was pictured in Cathay's in-house magazine toasting the maiden flight with executives and crew members upon its arrival in Hong Kong. It was only when video images of the stunt began circulating among Cathay staff - and later on websites including popular file-sharing site YouTube - that an investigation was launched. It led to the sacking of Mr Wilkinson and the suspension from training duties of Mr Middleton, 47. Cathay has also confirmed there had been two earlier fly-bys - both involving Mr Wilkinson and both unauthorised - during collection of new Boeing 777s from Seattle. The first was in 2001 and was performed by Mr Wilkinson; the second was performed last year by a fleet pilot given permission by fleet commander Mr Wilkinson to execute the manoeuvre. The chief pilot did not have the authority to give that permission, a senior Cathay source said. However, the airline said neither incident was 'of the same nature' - meaning the planes did not fly as low as 8.5 metres - and no executives had been on board. An investigation into those fly-bys is understood to be continuing. There have been no other low-flying stunts, the airline said. Mr Wilkinson was fired and Mr Middleton punished after a disciplinary hearing on February 19 which found that although the chief pilot had permission from the Seattle control tower for the fly-by, Cathay's 777 fleet captain did not have the written permission required from the airline. Asked about the role of Mr Pratt, who took over as Cathay chairman in 2005 after nearly 30 years climbing through the ranks of parent company Swire, an airline spokeswoman said he was in no way connected to the decision to perform the fly-by. 'There was no request or suggestion from anyone in Cathay Pacific for the fly-by to take place,' she said. 'The decision was entirely that of the captain in command.' The Cathay spokeswoman said it was the first time Mr Pratt had sat on a delivery flight and that he would have assumed the fly-by was authorised. 'The chairman is not an aviator and was there in a purely ceremonial role,' the source said. The two first officers standing on the flight deck during the fly-by were strapped in during takeoff. In a detailed statement, Cathay described the January 31 fly-by as 'inappropriate and regrettable' and said the previous two fly-bys only came to light during investigation of that incident.