A father and son have co-piloted their first commercial flight together to mark a momentous milestone.

64-year-old Richard Hocking from East Grinstead is set to retire after 45 years as a commercial airline pilot, 41 of those years as a pilot with Thomson Airways.

Son Henry Hocking, has also been flying with Luton-based Thomson for three years, but had never flown with his dad due to a clash in their schedules. However, their timetables were switched by the company so that the pair could fly together to honour the special occasion.

The father-son duo finally sat in the cockpit together, with Richard serving as captain and Henry as first officer, during the 10 hour flight from London Gatwick to Cancun, Mexico. During the flight, Richard announced to passengers that it was a special day for him as he was flying with his son.

Richard, who has clocked up more than 25,000 hours during his impressive career, commented on the experience: “It was a really special moment for me and I was extremely proud to have Henry beside me – it was the perfect way to mark my retirement.”

“Flying with my dad has always been a dream of mine, so this has definitely topped the list as a career highlight”, Henry added.

The married father of three and grandfather of one started flying gliders at the age of 16, before going on to the College of Air Training at Hamble where he gained his Commercial Pilot’s License in 1971 at the age of 19 – making him one of the youngest pilots to qualify in his class. He joined Britannia in 1975, becoming a captain just four years later and during his time with the company helped to introduce the Flight Data Monitoring system, which is now an integral part of the airline’s safety system. Richard remained with the company following Britannia’s rebrand to Thomson and currently flies the airline’s state-of-the-art Dreamliner 787 series.

His 33 year-old son Henry joined Thomson Airways in 2013, having qualified in 2009 from Oxford Aviation Academy and has flown more than 4,000 hours. The pilot, who lives in Loughborough with his girlfriend Holly, joined Thomson Airways on the Boeing 737-800 series.

Flying is certainly a family profession for the Hockings. Henry said: “Aviation has always been a huge part of our family’s history and my upbringing. In fact one of my earliest memories is being sat in the flight deck with my dad and wanting to press all the buttons.

“My grandfather worked for the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment and used to take my father to air shows as a child. My mother worked as cabin crew and my brother and sister are also involved in the industry, so flying is clearly in our genes!”

Despite his retirement, Richard doesn’t plan to hang up his pilot’s hat just yet, adding: “Flying will always be my passion. I part-own a small aircraft at Redhill aerodrome so I will still go up in that from time-to-time when the weather is good.”


Crew father and son