Interviewing Hogan Loh, former President of the Hong Kong Aviation Club
“During my childhood, young people in Hong Kong seldom had the chance to know about flying. They might have dreamt about flying in sky but what exactly flying was all about, they did not have any clue.” Hogan Loh recalled, while showing us around at the Hong Kong Aviation Club adjacent to the old Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport at Sung Wong Toi in Kowloon City. Hogan shared with us his flying dream and how he had made his dream come true in the past 50 years, and how he helped youngsters become pilots and even a few taken aviation as a career.
Hogan studied in Britain at the age of sixteen. During a military training opportunity he obtained a chance to fly in a small aircraft. It was this 15-minute flying experience which had chained him to this lifelong dream. Hogan said, “At that time, the pilot asked me if I would like to try making a loop (flying a 360 degree vertical somersault) in the sky. In great excitement and anxiety, I said yes. This ‘Yes’ allowed me to fully embrace the joy and challenge of flying an aircraft – a true ‘Love at First Flight’.”
How much did it cost you to make this dream come true? Hogan said that it was almost at all costs. Learning to fly is costly. Without the financial support of his family, Hogan sacrificed his rest time and took up part-time jobs after school in order to pay for the flying tuition fees.
“The airport where I took flying lessons was quite far away. It took me one hour on the bus and half hour walking to get there, with no exception even in hot summers or cold winters. Now looking back, it was real tough. But due to my passion for flying, I enjoyed every part of it including the tough times.” Later on, Hogan spent two years to get his Private Pilot’s License in London after graduating from high school. In 1974, he returned to Hong Kong and became a member of the Aero Club of Hong Kong, which was subsequently merged with the Hong Kong Flying Club and the Far East Flying and Technical School to become the Hong Kong Aviation Club Limited. Since then he has been flying for over 44 years – a highly skilled pilot.
“To me, flying is not only an interest or hobby. I have a true passion for it. Flying an aircraft is not like driving a car. If you haven’t flown for a while, you become a bit rusty at it. It takes time to get back to form and become familiar with it again. In fact, a pilot needs to undergo physical examination regularly. The requirements of being a pilot are very stringent.”
Hogan’s passion for flying is well demonstrated by his varying flying experiences. In addition to flying different types of aircraft, he is also on the waiting list of SpaceShipTwo. It is his wish to be a space passenger and to explore the space. While he is still waiting for his chance to travel in the space, he has already visited the Operation Center twice and observed the construction process. He has also conversed with the chief pilot, engineers and designers.
There are a few pilots over age 65 in The Hong Kong Aviation Club including Hogan. They undergo physical examination every year. “As long as you have a flying license, maintaining recency and passed the physical examination, you are qualified to fly an aircraft in Hong Kong”
For those who haven’t got the flying license at a young age, do they still have a chance to realize their dream of flying? Hogan said, “It is never too late to start learning. Ageing does not slow down your pace of learning. Age is not a barrier; the real barrier is one’s own psychological condition.” In other words, Hogan considers that we must not allow age to restrict our acts. On the contrary, we should have strong perseverance in acquiring new knowledge.
If retirement is still a long way to go, there is no harm considering getting a private pilot license. The Hong Kong Aviation Club is currently Hong Kong’s only authorized training organization for private pilot license. Those who want to learn how to fly must first become a member of the Club, and then take lessons in flying fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters at Shek Kong Airfield on Saturdays and Sundays. It will take about one year or above to complete the entire process, but much will depend on the weather which will determine the operating time of the airport.
To obtain a flying license within a short time, one may enroll in a training course in one of the signatory countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) such as Australia, United States, etc. Comparatively speaking, these countries are relatively dry in some areas, with very little rain. This provides generally good weather condition for flight training. A full-time learner may obtain the license in about one and a half months. These holders of an ICAO pilot license obtained overseas may fly in Hong Kong once they become a member of the Hong Kong Aviation Club and passing some examination subjects as prescribed by Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Hogan warned that for those taking flying lessons overseas, attention should be given to the courses they enroll in. Apart from considering the quality of the institution, one must make sure that the type of aircraft used for training is recognized by the Civic Aviation Department of Hong Kong. There are some institutions providing training courses for flying Ultra-light aircrafts. Yet this type of aircraft license is not recognized by the Civil Aviation Department, so the license holders still cannot fly in Hong Kong.
Despite the difficulty in obtaining a pilot license, people approaching 60 or beyond may still enroll in training courses and activities to enhance their knowledge in flying. They can also undertake volunteers work. Even though we may not have a license to fly, we can still enjoy the joy of flying in the beautiful world beyond the clouds by hiring a professional pilot to fly the aircraft.
From the Editor
In any era, young people embrace all kinds of dreams and aspirations. This precious quality and affection is not unique to young people only. People of all ages also have things that give them immense pleasure and satisfaction. Do not allow age to stop us from pursuing dreams that will lead us to a new horizon. For those who hold the dream to fly, no matter how old you are, where you come from, how rich or poor you are, you are still free to pursue what they aspire to achieve and to enjoy the joy and pain along the way. Being able to work hard is gratifying and it gives you strength to pursue further – to glide in the beautiful sky above.