Father, son pilot AirAsia in rare historic flight

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    CLARK FREEPORT – A father and son team of Philippines’ AirAsia (PAA) piloted an Airbus A-320 Clark-Davao- Clark flight at the Clark International Airport (CIA) here yesterday.

    Considered “rare” in the airline industry, Capt. Ronaldo V. Cunanan, 64, who will be retiring in November, accompanied his son Daniel “Elmo,” 24, on his first flight as co-pilot of the Airbus A-320.

    The younger Cunanan has just been “released” by his instructor last week to start flying with regular line pilots.

    Cunanan explained that when you’re on training you only “fly” with an instructor. After that, you get a “check ride.”

    After the check ride, the check pilot will say whether you can be released into the line which means that you can now start flying with regular line pilots and not with instructors anymore.

    Just two hours before they boarded the cockpit of PAA’s A-320 yesterday, father and son found time to sit down with the press where they shared their experiences and their excitement. “The feeling is something that you can compare like when you’re getting married or graduating from college,” the elder Cunanan said of his excitement in having his son as his co-pilot who is flying for the first Contime as a professional.

    “This is a rare case where the youngest pilot will be flying with the oldest pilot in the company,” he added.

    The younger Cunanan jokingly said he was acquiring a special set of earplugs which he can use on the flight so that he won’t be able to hear his father who will be in command of the aircraft. “He’s a very strict father,” he complained in jest.

    “But honestly, I’m very excited,” he said. The elder Cunanan, who logged in a total of about 25,000 to 30,000 hours flying time, said he began his flying career at the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Aviation School in 1973.

    He said the first commercial aircraft that he handled was a DC-3 cargo plane. Cunanan said he spent most of his flying career with PAL before moving on to join Saudia Airlines in 1998. He then transferred to a cargo company, Jet 8, based in Singapore.

    He then moved on to Jet Star in 2009 where he got his Airbus 320 rating and left at the end of 2011 to join PAA.

    The elder Cunanan said he flew all kinds of planes or “equipment” in flying parlance like the Cessna 150 trainer plane, DC3 cargo, the Hawker Siddeley which is a turbo prop plane, the Japanese made YS-11 which is also turbo-prop, the Boeing 747 where he was second officer, as captain of the noisy British jet liner BAC-111, the 737-300 which was “the first first-class cockpit that I flew in,” and the Boeing 747 Classic especially when he was with Saudia Airlines.

    The elder Cunanan said he decided to take up flying because the then vice president of PAL, Capt. Bimbo Manzano, who happened to have a son as his classmate in chemical engineering at La Salle, convinced him to become a pilot. Cunanan said Manzano told them that they were in dire need of pilots because a labor strike had beset PAL.

    He said being a pilot presented a better opportunity for him than working in a plant or in sales if he had relied on being a chemical engineer. As for the younger Cunanan, he said he finished a course in Management major in Advertising at La Salle before enrolling at the Fliteline Aviation School in Plaridel, Bulacan. “I look after my dad,” he said. “I had been dreaming to become a pilot since high school,” he added.

    His eldest brother Armando nicknamed “Kiko” has just enrolled at Fliteline two weeks ago while his other brother Benigno or “Bingo” is a nurse based in Virginia, USA.

    The elder Cunanan, who is married to Connie Castañeda, a former flight attendant, said life after flying will be spent as an instructor in flight simulators, mainly “to sustain my other son” who also took up flying lessons two weeks ago, he said.

    The Philippines Air Asia flight PQ 7023 left the CIA at 12:05 pm and landed at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao at 2 pm yesterday. Flight PQ7024 landed back at the CIA at 4:20 pm after leaving Davao at 2:25 pm. completing a historic flight for PAA.

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