My first and only flight in the upper deck was during a flight from Manchester to Hong Kong Kai Tak in June 1996 whilst flying from MAN
on a Cathay Pacific 747-400.
I was sat at the back in Economy downstairs enjoying a film whilst flying over Italy when a flight attendant came up to me and told me the captain would like to see me. I did not have a clue why, I thought that I had done something wrong.
So I was escorted to the cockpit upstairs to be greeted by the captain and one of the relief crew, he explained that I had mentioned to my sister in passing that I would love to visit the cockpit in flight, and in doing so a few days before I was due to fly out she rang Public relations at Cathay Pacific to see if this was possible.
Of course it was up to the crew on the day to decide if this was possible.
So I got talking to the captain (a fellow Brit) and the relief pilots (an Aussie and a Chinese) and explained that I was going to Kai Tak to take photo's of the airport before it closes the following year.
I was up in the cockpit for about 10 minutes when the Captain decided it was time for him to join the first officer for 40 winks and leave the relief crew to fly the plane for the next 7 hours. I then started talking to the Aussie pilot who was acting captain for the next 7 hours about flying in general, football, Oz and my hometown of Manchester, when I was then told he was upgrading to the 747 from the L1011 that Cathay were retiring soon. I told him that I was on a L1011 that was at Tucson a few months earlier (VR-HOC) during a tour of Hamiltons. He remarked that he flew the last revenue flight of that aircraft. I subsequently sent him a photo of the aircraft for his trouble.
I was up in the cockpit for over an hour and had a wonderful meal and desert and a glass of Aussie wine!! Sadly the pilot could not have any.
When I was leaving the cockpit the Aussie pilot told me to take a spare seat in the upper deck and enjoy the rest of my flight.
So off I went and found a window seat and began to get so comfortable that I for the first and only time I managed to fall asleep. About an hour before landing at Kai Tak I woke up to breakfast being served, enjoyed a wonderful bacon and sausage fry up. As we were about to start our descent the Aussie pilot came and tapped me on the shoulder and invited me back to the cockpit.
He said that I was allowed one of the jump seats for landing, so I put on a pair of headphones and the crew were explaining the checks required for landing and told me that we were going to be the first arrival of the day at Kai Tak due to the good tail winds that we got on our flight. About 15 minutes before landing we broke from the clouds to reveal the worlds busiest shipping lane. A couple of minutes later the Captain and co pilot get out of their seats and start taking photographs, I asked why they were doing so and they said that most of the time that they fly into Kai Tak it is dark or the weather is dull but today was a wonderful morning to take some aerial shots. I asked them if it was OK
to take my camera out and take a few shots as well and they said no problem. (I only had a point and shoot camera on me as my SLR was in the hold) Finished off the roll during our landing which was wonderful. I had the best seat in the house with a full view of the Hong Kong peninsula, Checkerboard hill and the runway at Kai Tak. It was so quiet up in the cockpit that I did not feel the wheels touch the ground on landing, so much so that I was getting a bit worried when we were running out of runway and heading for the water when the pilot turns off onto the taxiway. I did not take into account that we were a lot higher up sitting in the cockpit and further from the engines.
I thanked the crew for the wonderul privilege they gave me and gave my sister a great big hug on arrival back in MAN
for sending the letter, for what was probably the one and only time I will be able to get a visit to the cockpit in flight.
Had a wonderful 5 days in Hong Kong doing the touristy bit and spotting from the top of the car parks and the HK
aviation club roof.
Flying may not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.