My first long trip
Pilot|May 2020
Bob is a former professional pilot. In over thirty years of airline flying he has operated from more than 250 airports in every continent – except Antarctica
Bob Grimstead

Editor Philip suggested I might like to share some airline reminiscences while I can still recall them. First, you should know a few facts about my professional life. As well as having been a GA pilot for more than half a century, I was an airline pilot for 33 years between 1970 and 2003. I amassed 20,000 flying hours on 25 jet types including eight kinds of Boeing as well as my 2,000 GA hours, operating mostly long-haul but including six years of short-haul European work. I visited every continent except Antarctica and operated in and out of 256 international airports (which I suspect is a comparatively high number).

My first long trip took place in 1971 after three-and-a-half months of groundschool, 23 hours in a non-visual, fixedbase simulator (the only kind that existed back then) and 11 hours and 45 minutes of exciting training in the real aeroplane. Believe me, despite being both fast and capable of carrying 150 passengers to the ends of the earth, that Boeing 707 was a very simple, unsophisticated but tricky airliner. Our instructor, the revered Chief Flight Engineer John Mann, warned us that she “could kill you in a thousand ways if you are not vigilant”.

So 24 May 1971 found me, just 21 years old, with the tiny total of 173 P1 hours, in the right seat of a mighty, Rolls-Royce Conway powered, Boeing 707-436 Intercontinental airliner. The trip itinerary read LHR-FRA-BEY-KHIDEL-RGN-SIN-HKG-HND-HNL and return. I knew HNL stood for Honolulu, but in those far-off days preceding Hawaii Five-O, I had no real idea where Honolulu was (except that from the trip description, it was clearly beyond Hong Kong).

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