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Pilot Francis Chin Yiu-cheong
In 1972, Francis Chin Yiu-cheong completed a historic London to Hong Kong flight with his brother in a single engine 100 HP Beagle Pup plane, a feat that made headlines around the world. 38 years later, he has broken another record with a flight from Hong Kong to Xian. He talks to Sophia Chan.

By Sophia Chan | Oct 29, 2009

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  • Pilot Francis Chin Yiu-cheong

HK Magazine: Was flying something you always wanted to do?
Francis Chin: Yes, from a young age I’ve always liked flying and growing up, I was into airborne things, such as kite-flying and model planes. I started flying at Kai Tak when I was 16 and I got a license at 17, when still in high school.

HK: What unforgettable experiences happened during your epic flight in 1972?
FC: The most memorable moments were meeting so many new people. Everywhere we went, in places like Crete, Qatar and India, we met friends. For example, we were warned about the dangers, such as being robbed and beheaded in the Middle East. In fact, the Arabians were really nice and gentle. When we arrived in the middle of the Syrian desert a whole town came to welcome us and offer shelter and food. Another time, we got a huge welcome from the local pilots in Lebanon. They insisted on servicing our aircraft and refused to accept any payment, deeming it an insult. We found this so moving.

HK: Did you encounter many difficulties?
FC: Yes, of course. Throughout the whole flying course we passed over wars such as the the India-Pakistan war, which meant we had to make detours over water rather than fly direct over land. We also couldn’t fly over Vietnam due to the Vietnam War and because a general aviation route was prohibited, so we had to do a long detour over shark-infested waters. But the most dangerous moment was probably from Calcutta to Bangkok, when we ran out of fuel ten nautical miles from the airport and our engine stopped. Luckily, we had a lot of height and managed to glide safely into the airport. That was the first and only forced landing I have ever encountered in my 43 years of flying.

HK: You recently made the single engine cross-country flight from Hong Kong to Xian. What was the significance behind this?
FC: General aviation is not allowed in China so I have been working for 38 years to realize this dream. Finally, they approved my proposal and adopted it as an event to kick-start the China International General Aviation convention in Xian, which was in October. It was very challenging for my team because of all the restrictions of flying in China and the high mountains we had to fly over, but we completed the journey in six days.

HK: Do you think you’ll stop flying soon?
FC: No, I will fly until I cannot fly. A medical certificate will be the only problem I have, so I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, or eat oily things to prolong my flying days. Most pilots who drink stop at 50, and I am now 60 years old. My next plan is to fly to Beijing from Hong Kong. I also want to fly the Great Wall, following it inland to the sea, as well as flying along the route of the Silk Road.

HK: What other passions do you have apart from the flying?
FC: My goal is to promote general aviation and the education of general aviation for the people of Hong Kong and China. I’m also working on my campaign to save land in Kai Tak old airport for general aviation, and I want to promote cochlear implant surgeries so all deaf people in Hong Kong and China can enjoy the benefits.

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