Captain Graham Forbes’ interest in aviation began at a very young age and his natural abilities were recognised by the Royal Air Force whilst still at school. He completed both a Gliding Course and RAF Flying Scholarship, which culminated in his gaining a PPL at the same time completing his school studies. The RAF selected Graham for a University Cadetship and after joining as a Student Officer he studied Aeronautics and Astronautics at Southampton University, upon completion of which he was Commissioned as a Flying Officer at RAF Cranwell and commenced his RAF flying training.
Graham’s first posting was to the C-130 Hercules with 47 Squadron, a Tactical and Special Forces Squadron, where he served for nine years. During this time, he initially acted as a Co-Pilot, at times flying alongside Past Master Chris Ford. He successfully gained his Command in time to participate in the latter stages and aftermath of The Falklands Conflict, which he describes as the highlight of his tour.
A completely unexpected conflict, The Falklands required total flexibility and a great deal of ingenuity from all branches of the armed forces, however none more so than from the air and ground crews of the RAF. Suddenly air to air refuelling from Victor Tankers was the order of the day, by the relatively slow Hercules or Fat Albert, as she is affectionately known by her crews. Graham has five missions in his logbook with multiple refuelling brackets, each spanning greater than 24 hours, FTLs did not feature highly in the RAF manuals.
Based on Ascension Island some 3000nm miles from the Falklands, the first of these mammoth sorties found Graham in command of one of a pair of Hercs, the other being commanded by Upper Freeman Colin Stagg, whilst being accompanied by eight or so Victor Tankers. Their tasking was to conduct the first overflight of the islands on the day of the Argentinian surrender, drop supplies and carry out a very low level recce of the runway. Eventually landings on the 4000ft strip at Stanley became the norm, where the weather could changed from summer to winter in the space of a few hours. Frequently taking off from Ascension Island at the wartime max take-off weight (MTOW) (no perf A protections) and landing at the normal MTOW using tactical speeds. No trials had been conducted by the Boscombe Down Test Pilots, however when this was raised at command level, the response was to “just b****y well get on with it”. Landing speeds were so high, that the engines could not immediately be brought into reverse for fear of de-coupling the propellers from their shafts, then there was the traditional bounce through the bomb crater left by the Vulcan raid.
Subsequently, Margaret Thatcher decided to visit the Islands and Islanders that she had so forcefully stood behind and Graham was tasked as her Captain. Just about everything that could go wrong did, ranging from searching for the tankers in cloud, having to jury-rig the refuelling system after a series of critical failures and an abort on take-off from Stanley after a double engine failure on the left side. Mrs Thatcher’s press officer, Sir Bernard Ingham, described the whole thing as being the most frightening experience of his life.
After all this excitement, Graham endured the CFS course and returned to the place that his career started when he was posted to become OIC Southampton University Air Squadron, achieving the coveted A2 QFI Qualification in the process. It was a happy unit and Graham left the RAF after 19 years of service, as a Squadron Leader.
Graham joined Cathay Pacific Airways in 1988 as a First Officer and only three years later, passed the notorious Cathay Command course. It was at this point, over twenty five years ago, that he joined The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators and has supported the Region as best he could over the years in all its endeavours. Following his transfer to the fledgling Airbus Fleet he rose to become a Check and Training Captain before retiring and joining the simulator fraternity as an instructor, where he remains now.
Throughout his distinguished Cathay career, he conscientiously applied his RAF CFS qualifications to excellent further use, some of the highlights being the development of structured courses for JFO and Command training, running Airbus Standards and introducing the concept of “competencies” within the reporting system. With Graham’s commitment to progressing the Training ethos within Cathay, the bulk of his work was necessarily completed outside ‘normal office hours’. However, his efforts bore considerable fruit and have benefitted a significant number of Cathay Pilots and therefore Hong Kong Aviation as a whole.
Captain Graham Forbes followed a distinguished RAF career, with a commitment to Cathay as a Management Check Pilot, innovative course designer and mentor to countless numbers of pilots. His lifetime achievements, without doubt demonstrate his devotion to aviation and thereby to the core values of The Hong Kong Region of The Honourable Company of Air Pilots.
Graham plans to retire next year and will have survived over 50 years in aviation and flown over 20,000 hours.
2018 Captain Graham Forbes
2017 Gabriel Chan
2016 Gary Lui
2015 Jeremy John Russell
2014 Captain Michael Chan
2013 Dr Lily K B Fenn LLB MAv LLD
2012 Mr Paddy Cavanagh
2011 Captain Peter G Robinson FRAeS AdDipAV
2010 Captain Brian J Greeves BSc(Eng) DMS(Dist) FRAeS FRGS
2009 Philip Parker