First plane built in HK takes off in bid to fly round globe

It took the Cathay Pacific team, together with students and volunteers, eight years to build the Inspiration B-KOO plane, which took off yesterday on its first leg to Clark airport in the Philippines.
It took the Cathay Pacific team, together with students and volunteers, eight years to build the Inspiration B-KOO plane, which took off yesterday on its first leg to Clark airport in the Philippines.PHOTO: INSPIRATION/FACEBOOK

HONG KONG • A ground-breaking flight has defied bad weather conditions to take off from Hong Kong in an effort to fly around the globe.

The Inspiration B-KOO plane, the first to be made in the territory, took flight from Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport yesterday on its first leg to Clark airport in the Philippines, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The plane, being flown by Cathay Pacific pilot Hank Cheng and co-pilot Gary Tat, is set for a 25-country trip that will take three months.

Its longest leg is 3,800km across the Pacific Ocean - from Hawaii to the United States city of San Jose - a journey that will last 131/2 hours, according to SCMP.

But the flight was almost aborted as a storm that struck Hong Kong on Saturday night threatened to delay the take-off.

The rain alert was withdrawn yesterday morning.

The plane was seen off by Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, as well as the media and the pilots' friends.

Before the event, Mr Leung praised the Cathay Pacific team, which had been working to put together the RV-8 single-engine aircraft for the last eight years, together with students and volunteers, the SCMP reported.

Pilot Mr Cheng said he was grateful to the team and Cathay Pacific for facilitating the mission.

The Post quoted him as saying that the "difficult but not impossible" trip was his boyhood dream and that he would miss his wife and daughter.

"My daughter is eight years old, and my plane is eight years old too, so I've worked on this plane for eight years without spending much time at home...

"I feel like I owe my family a lot because I've used their time to chase what I want," he said.

Mr Tat thanked the project's sponsors. "(The) Inspiration will fly through 50 airports in 25 countries, covering 55,000km," the SCMP quoted him as saying. "The total distance is equivalent to flying around the earth 1.4 times."

A Cathay Pacific spokesman echoed the pilots' hope that the expedition would be an inspiration to the people of Hong Kong.

"With such a successful realisation of a childhood dream, (the pilots) hope to inspire the people of Hong Kong to dream big and work hard to achieve their goals," said the spokesman.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'First plane built in HK takes off in bid to fly round globe'. Print Edition | Subscribe