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Sterling Pacific Review – A day in the life of a cargo pilot

Flying with the Sterling Pacific 35L Carry On Travel Case: A Cargo Pilot’s Perspective

Eva with the Sterling Pacific 35L Aluminium Travel Case

My name is Eva, and I have been flying the Boeing 747 freighter (-400 and -8 versions) for 5 years. The Boeing 747 freighter is the variant with the iconic nose cargo door. From my home base Hong Kong I fly all around the world as a senior First Officer. The first fact about flying as a cargo pilot: no two days are the same! There is no typical day or typical week. It is a lot of fun. 

Join me on my trip

Today you are joining me on a day in my life as a cargo pilot. It’s Friday afternoon. I have just completed a simulator session at my airline’s training centre in Hong Kong. I am in the simulator every three months, for proficiency and training sessions, where all kind of scenarios get trained and checked; from multiple engine failures to cargo fires to landing in low visibility conditions. After completing my simulator session I check with ‘crew control’ for any changes in my schedule. There are no changes, so tomorrow I have an early morning report time at 05:30 AM. It is not a very typical duty in my not so typical schedule: I get to operate to Mumbai, then stay in the crew hotel for a couple of hours, to return back to Hong Kong as ‘positioning crew’. It is not a turnaround flight, as is often the case. In a turnaround flight we return directly back to Hong Kong after cargo has been offloaded and loaded in usually under two hours.

How I pack my Aluminium Travel Case

At home I pack my bag for tomorrow; I bring the Sterling Pacific 35L Carry On Travel Case. The case is absolutely perfect for shorter trips and for those cargo turnaround flights, where I would normally bring some items along with me for an ‘unexpected overnight’. It easily stores toiletries, sleepwear, gym clothes, a clean uniform shirt, and my laptop. I prepare for an early night. 

Let’s fly to Mumbai!

It’s Saturday morning. In order to make my early report, with the Hong Kong Express Train not running yet, I have booked a taxi to pick me up at 04:45. I get ready and put on my uniform. Then I have my first cup of coffee of the day, while downloading the flight plan and the weather information on my company iPad for my flight. In the taxi to Dispatch I review the flight. Today I am scheduled to operate a Boeing 747-8F. I slightly prefer the -8, as it is a bit more advanced, with for example electronic checklists instead of paper checklists. The flight time is 6 hours, and the weather in Mumbai is very hazy, so the visibility for landing is quite reduced today. 

Cargo on board

Boeing 747 nose cargo door

At Dispatch I meet with the Captain. He offers me the sector, which means that I get to be pilot flying, including take-off and landing. We discuss the flight, the weather, aircraft status and required fuel. We have a lot of freight on board today, and will land at Mumbai at almost our maximum landing weight of 346,090 kgs. Our scheduled departure time is 06:55 AM. As pilot flying I set up the flight deck, and the Captain completes the external inspection of the plane. The loading has already been completed when we arrive at our airplane; lots of high stacked pallets. The nose door stays closed today; it is only used for very big and bulky freight, which would not work for the side cargo doors. As we are ready early, we are able to depart a few minutes ahead of schedule. With freight there is less pressure when it comes to keeping the exact schedule: when you are ready to fly, you can often go if it works with Air Traffic Control. Also, there are no passengers to complain in case of some delay. 

6 hour flight

The Captain and I have flown together before, but it has been about a year since we last operated a flight together. We catch up and have a very pleasant flight to Mumbai. There is no turbulence, so we enjoy a smooth cruise phase. As we fly to Mumbai, we enjoy our breakfast (which we prepare ourselves in the galley) at Flight Level 360 in Vietnamese airspace. We discuss more interesting cargo each of us has transported: from priceless racing cars, to dozens of horses. 

It is late morning when I get to land in Mumbai; this is my favourite phase of flight! Then follows taxiing, parking and shutting down the engines. Our plane is scheduled to continue to Germany, and a different crew is ready to operate the flight to Frankfurt. The Captain and I disembark the plane, making sure we have our belongings with us. I grab my Sterling Pacific Case from the Upper Deck, and then we need to pass the security in Mumbai, and take our transport to the crew hotel. 

More about the Sterling Pacific 35L Travel Case

At the hotel it is time to unpack. I already got several compliments on my shiny Sterling Pacific Travel Case today; from my colleague, and from a couple of random passengers at the airport. It is beautiful and elegant indeed, and it does not go unnoticed. The two wheel design proved robust going over bumps; the wheels roll smoothly. ‘Click click!’, as I open the spring loaded latch locks. A fun avgeek fact: the aluminium used for the case (5052 and A380), are two alloys used in the construction of aircraft and in aerospace engineering. This luggage is built to last.

Sterling Pacific Travel Case: elegant design and built to last!

Returning home

Sterling Pacific 35L: compact size and durable.

We only stay at the hotel in Mumbai for a couple of hours; in the evening we return to Hong Kong on a Boeing 777 passenger flight. We are traveling as ‘positioning crew, which means that we don’t get to operate, but travel in the cabin, because we need to return to Hong Kong for other duties.

So that same evening, after a nap, a gym session and freshening up, we meet with the B777 crew in the hotel lobby. We travel back with them to Mumbai airport. On board, I stow the Sterling Pacific Travel Case safely in the overhead bin. The 35L case complies with the allowable major airlines carry-on size limits. I change from my uniform into my pyjamas and sleep the whole way to Hong Kong. We land on Sunday morning at 10AM. I make my way home, and the rest of the day I am off. 

The next evening, Monday night, I need to operate the Boeing 747 to Alaska. This is a 9,5 hour flight, crossing the Pacific Ocean, and it is a route I operate very frequently. I am scheduled to fly in the USA for 6 days, and operate between Anchorage, New York, and Toronto. I am hoping I get to see the Northern Lights on one of these flights! (Spoiler alert: I did get to see the Northern Lights 🙂 As I said, this job is a lot of fun!

In conclusion: Sterling Pacific Luggage Review

Thank you Sterling Pacific, for letting me try out the 35L Cabin Travel Case. I look forward to take this stylish and high-quality aluminium case on many more trips. I am also excited to try out the 80L Check-In travel Case in the future, for all my longer cargo trips. With its sleek design and robust construction, it’s the perfect choice for pilots who require reliable luggage on their many trips around the world. If you’re a pilot looking for the perfect luggage, consider Sterling Pacific for your next journey! 


Travel with Eva

Hong Kong tips

I can call Hong Kong my home since January 2018, as I am now based here, flying out of HKG airport. Via Instagram I get a lot of questions about my new hometown. ‘I will visit Hong Kong for a day / a weekend / a week, do you have any tips for me?’ So, as a nice overview of what I usually answer, find here what I recommend in Hong Kong! For sure I will provide another blog with tips in the future, as I am still in a stage of exploring this amazing city, and I don’t think one can ever be done with that! For now I hope you like reading @flywitheva‘s little Hong Kong guide. 

So you plan to visit the amazing city of Hong Kong? Good choice! It is truly ‘Asia travel for beginners’, in the sense that it is quite western due to it’s history, and English language will get you around almost everywhere. It has so much to offer: nature, culture, nightlife. And food: all cuisines are on offer, the food deserves a proper foodie article soon. Ten tips from an expat living in this city for several months now:

1. Surfing at Big Wave Bay

Surfing Hong Kong

Surfing in Hong Kong? Yes! When I have a day off from flying, one of my favourite things to do is to head to Big Wave Bay. This small beach is easy to reach: from MTR stop Chai Wan you can either take a minibus or taxi, or, what I always do: take a short hike, which is only 45 minutes from the MTR. You need to hike via the cemetery; first steep stairs up, then a downhill hike till the beach is the nice reward at the end. At the beach there is a facility to change clothes, and there are two spots to rent surf boards. For only 50 HKD (= about 5,5 Euro, plus 100 HKD deposit) you can rent a board for a full day! It is such a nice spot with good waves for both beginner (like myself) and more advanced surfers. 

2. Hiking

If you have been following me for a while, you know I am an outdoorsy person. When I was based in Barcelona I loved taking trips to the Pyrenees. I am so happy Hong Kong offers a tremendous amount of hiking trails. I am waiting for fall and winter before stepping up the hiking game, as the summer is very hot and humid. But I can recommend for example ‘Lantau Trail’ on Lantau Island, The High Junk Peak Trail and Dragon’s Back. All these trails are good for any level of hikers, and you can do the full trail or choose to do just a part of it. 

3. The Peak

The view over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak is kind of a must for any Hong Kong visit! Get up there by foot, or hop on the peak tram. Another option is to take a taxi (taxi’s are inexpensive in Hong Kong). At the top you find the Peak Tower Building where you can visit a Sky Terrace, but in my opinion this is not worth the wait or the money; the view just below the Sky Terrace is free, equally beautiful, and there are less people around!

4. Wooloomooloo Wan Chai rooftop bar

Wooloomooloo view

Drinks are fairly expensive in Hong Kong (plan for happy hour!), both at street level or at one of the roof terraces. So why not enjoy that cocktail with a great view? The Wooloomooloo Wan Chai rooftop bar is one of my favourite places to chill, and to bring my friends when they visit me in Hong Kong. High above buzzing Wan Chai it is a relaxed lounge spot with a view that does not disappoint; either before or after sunset you can make your Insta-worthy pictures 😉 

5. Cocktails at Ophelia 

Hong Kong nightlife! It is centred around two areas: Lan Kwai Fong (‘LKF’) and when the night is not so young anymore: Wan Chai. Definitely check it all out, but let me also recommend a different spot in Wan Chai: Ophelia. A sophisticated bar with a burlesque vibe. Make sure to dress up, then order one of their perfect cocktails and enjoy the entertainment. For sure this place will be not something you have seen before! A few other places I like to go to go on a night out: Club Feather Boa (a ‘hidden’ bar, but not that well hidden for flight crews from many airlines), Iron Fairies, The Music Room at Potato Head, and when you are ready for the after party: Dusk Till Dawn. For sure this list will be more extensive in a few months as there are simply too many places to discover in this city.  

6. Sports in Tamar Park

To balance all the food and alcohol you might want to check a sports class on your Hong Kong trip. Most gyms require a membership, but surely you can join the local Hong Kong crowd working out in Tamar Park. For example pick one of the outdoor yoga classes, or how about a bootcamp class? Tuesday evening at 20:00 you can join ‘Tamar strong‘ (and most likely find me there if I’m in Hong Kong) for running and hiit exercises, or on sunday train hardcore with Sunday Shred

7. Mui Wo

If you are just visiting one or two days I would recommend sticking to Hong Kong Island. But if you come for several days, I urge you to visit Mui Wo on Lantau Island. Either take a boat trip from central pier to Discovery Bay and hike from there, or take a ferry directly to Mui Wo. It will simply show you a whole different side of the city; it’s a calm village, with not a high apartment building in sight. On Lantau Island I can also recommend to visit Tai O Village and the Tian Tan Buddha (‘The big Buddha’). The boat trip to reach Hong Kong Island is fun as well, and shows you the Hong Kong skyline from the water. 

8. Dim Sum at Lin Heung Tea House

Lin Heung Tea House

Not especially for the food, but absolutely for the experience: Lin Heung Tea House. It is full, it is buzzing, loud, you squeeze in at a table with the locals and grab your little baskets with food from one of the many food trolleys in the room and they stamp your card. It is something else! A table full of tea and peculiar dishes is the result. No need to dress up 😉

9. Tram ride

I told the most recent captain I flew with I was writing up some tips on Hong Kong, and asked him (living in HK since almost 20 years!) what his favourite ‘Hong Kong experience’ is to show friends and family. ‘To take the tram, grab a seat in the front on the upper deck, bring some beers, and watch Hong Kong pass by: always a success!’ I agree: hop on a Ding Ding: it’s a cheap and fun way to see a big stretch of the city! Did you know you can also hire a tram to host a party? 

10. Longer stay? Visit Macau!

I highly recommend to combine Hong Kong with a trip to Macau if you stay more than 5 days. It is only one hour by ferry, and you will arrive in a different world! Macau is also called ‘The Las Vegas of Asia’. Try your luck in one of the many casino’s, explore the Portugese side of Macau, and for a show that will take your breath away: visit The House of Dancing Water. There is no need to arrange a visa in advance, but do bring your passport! 

Various other tips:
  • A good amount of western style restaurants join in Hong Kong Super Mondays: you can get 2 main courses for the price of one! Find a list of participating restaurants here (you don’t need the card to benefit!) I tried Bouchon Bistro Francais (mussels and white wine!) and ALTO (Great food! And that view!)
  • Invest in an ‘Octopus card‘ to pay with ease for public transport, and your beers at 7-Eleven 😉 
  • One of my favourite Hong Kong lifestyle websites is Sassy Hong Kong. Have a look, lots of ideas and events.
  • If you prefer a private tour in Hong Kong, I know the perfect tour guide. He can take you for an overview of Hong Kong, or a certain part of the city; take you on a bike tour, hike tour, culinary tour, and can guide you or a group of people around in English, Spanish, French, German or Dutch. Together you can design your own customised plan. Get in touch if you are interested! 

These are my first tips on Hong Kong. In the coming months I will dive further into the city. I plan to visit many musea and events, to try lots of restaurants (from cheap Asian meals to Michelin restaurants), to go camping in Sai Kung, and to sail, paraglide and hike my way around the city and the New Territories. So stay tuned for more recommendations, and keep following my adventures on Instagram 🙂