777 pilot fired for buzzing airport
A Cathay Pacific Airways captain who picked up a new 777-300ER airliner at Everett's Paine Field last month has been fired for buzzing the...
By Seattle Times staff
A Cathay Pacific Airways captain who picked up a new 777-300ER airliner at Everett's Paine Field last month has been fired for buzzing the airfield before heading home to Hong Kong.
The celebratory flyby, reportedly just a few dozen feet above the runway, surprised the senior airline officials who were on board, among them company Chairman Christopher Pratt, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Hong Kong newspaper reported that Capt. Ian Wilkinson lost his job for violating company guidelines requiring prior clearance for such maneuvers.
Industry publication Flight International reported Monday that Wilkinson was the airline's senior 777 pilot. Cathay Pacific was taking delivery of its sixth 777-300ER, and the plane carried 50 to 60 people when it swooped past the airfield with its landing gear retracted.
The plane may have been as low as 28 to 30 feet off the ground, an unidentified Cathay Pacific source told the publication.
The 777-300 ER is 242 feet long, weighs around 350 tons and is 61 feet 5 inches high at the tail. It lists for $264 million.
Images of the Jan. 30 stunt appeared on YouTube and on the Web site of a local plane spotter, Matt Cawby.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said "the circumstances are being looked into and investigated by the FAA." A Paine Field spokesman had no comment.
An airline spokesperson told Flight International that "Cathay Pacific has a well-established approval process for flybys, and a number had been conducted in the past as display flights at air shows with proper approval in place."
The pilot and co-pilot were disciplined for not following those procedures, said the spokesperson. Both have appealed.
Boeing spokesman Chuck Cadena said "it's not uncommon" for pilots who are taking airplanes to circle back for a "flyby" over the runway — a goodbye to those left on the ground or watching from the observation deck at the Boeing delivery center at Paine Field.
Such maneuvers, weather permitting, are normally coordinated with the air traffic control tower and must comply with FAA regulations.
Cadena said he didn't know what height off the runway is typical for a flyby, or what level of permission is required to fly low. As for the Cathay Pacific incident, "it's a matter between the pilot and the airline."
Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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