A father and son have co-piloted their first commercial flight together to mark a special occasion.
Richard Hocking, 64, from East Grinstead, who is to retire after 45 years as a commercial airline pilot, flew from London Gatwick to Cancún, Mexico, with his son, Henry, 33, on April 12, returning on April 14, to mark the milestone.
He has been a pilot with Thomson Airways for 41 years and Henry for three, but due to clashing schedules they had not flown together before.
However, the company switched their timetables so they could co-pilot the 10-hour flight to honour Richard’s retirement.
Of the experience, Richard, who has clocked up more than 25,000 hours of flying during his career, said: “It was a really special moment for me and I was extremely proud to have Henry beside me – it was the perfect way to mark my retirement.”
Richard, a father-of-three and grandad, started flying gliders aged 16. He gained his commercial pilot’s license from the College of Air Training, in Hamble, in 1971 aged 19 – making him one of the youngest in his class to qualify.
He joined Britannia in 1975, becoming a captain just four years later, and during his time with the company helped to introduce the Flight Data Monitoring system, now an integral part of the airline’s safety system. He remained with the company after its rebrand to Thomson and currently flies the airline’s Dreamliner 787 series.
On the flight, Henry, who lives in Loughborough with his girlfriend Holly, said: “Flying with my dad has always been a dream of mine, so this has definitely topped the list as a career highlight.”
He qualified in 2009 from Oxford Aviation Academy and joined Thomson Airways on the Boeing 737-800 series in 2003.
He added: “Aviation has always been a huge part of our family’s history and my upbringing. In fact one of my earliest memories is being sat in the flight deck with my dad and wanting to press all the buttons.”
“My grandfather worked for the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment and used to take my father to air shows as a child. My mother worked as cabin crew and my brother and sister are also involved in the industry, so flying is clearly in our genes!”