You would expect pilots to have an understanding of the extremes of temperature, altitude and distance. After all, these factors are essential elements of flying around the globe. But some Cathay Pacific pilots take themselves to extremes in their spare time – braving frost, heat and heights all in the name of causes close to their hearts.
Take First Officer Katrine Olsen. In May 2020, Katrine and a team of nine other women cycled the punishing 200km of Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail on off-road ‘fatbikes’. The group of 10 did so on behalf of HER Planet Earth , a Singapore-based non-profit that works to support gender equality and environmental conservation.
They became the first all-female team to complete the challenge, raising much-needed funds for UN Women UK to support women affected by climate change in Nepal, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Katrine describes the adventure as six ‘extremely challenging’ days. ‘It still feels like a bit of a miracle that we were able to succeed,’ she says. ‘We had to battle temperatures ranging from -20 to -40°C for up to eight to 10 hours a day.’
On another continent, another extreme feat: this time to help conserve Africa’s wildlife. In 2019 Simulator Instructor Mike Migdoll and Training Captain Mawgan Grace took part in the Safaricom Marathon , a gruelling 26-mile run through 30-degree heat in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy , 225km north of Nairobi, Kenya.
The intrepid captains broke the five-hour barrier, raising funds both for Lewa itself and the Tusk Trust , which protects more than 40 species of African wildlife across four million hectares of land.
‘I saw herds of buffalo, elephants and several white rhinos including a beautiful calf,’ recalls Mike. The Conservancy has proven invaluable, he says. ‘Lewa has not lost a rhino to poaching for the last six years. They have never lost an elephant.’
For Mawgan, the motivation is keeping things that way. ‘Once you put your feet on the red African soil and marvel at the beauty of the wildlife and friendly communities, you quickly feel a connection and realise how vital it is to protect these areas for our future generations,’ he says.
For our final Cathay Pacific pilot, it’s all about the next generation. In May 2020, in order to raise funds for educational charity Shine Cambodia , Senior Captain Mark Gutteridge decided that he would cycle up Mount Everest – in a fashion.
‘Everesting’ is the term given to cycling up a hill enough times that the total climb adds up to the full height of Mount Everest. In Mark’s case, that was a hill in Hong Kong’s Discovery Bay, up Golf Club Road. It may sound pleasantly suburban, but it took 55 laps and just under 15 hours to reach Everest’s 8,488-metre pinnacle – much of it riding through the night to beat the sticky spring weather.
But it was worth it, says Mark. ‘Since visiting Cambodia in 2019 and seeing first-hand that many kids were not in school, I decided I had to start raising funds to help children and families break the poverty cycle. It is a difficult time for a lot of people right now, but a little kindness can go a long way.’
We’re proud that our Cathay Pacific pilots have demonstrated that – and taken their commitment to extremes.
Hero image: Laura Barisonzi