Hey Michael, so what are we flying in today?
This model is called the Robinson Raven. It’s a smaller helicopter that seats four people but despite its size it’s smooth as silk in the air. It costs around US$300,000 but some models costs twice as much and don’t offer much more.
Where do you like to fly around Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has amazing natural sceneries. Within 10 minutes from this airport [Hong Kong Aviation Club in Kowloon City] we can reach Dai Long Sai Wan past Silverstrand Bay. It’s secluded and if I blindfolded you during the flight you’d think we landed in Phuket. On some days I fly over the south side of Hong Kong to Shek O.
Cool! This is our hiking issue. Has flying made you more appreciative of Hong Kong’s natural landscape?
Yes, and that’s why I do it. I want to show people there is a much different side to Hong Kong. Many people stay in the city but they have no idea that there is so much natural beauty in our mountains and beaches. They complain about congestion but if they’d only venture out a little bit they would realise. I think for some amazing reason most of the buildings in Hong Kong are erected on what is a relatively small part of our island.
How difficult is it to get a helicopter licence in Hong Kong?
Anyone can do it. It’s actually a very accessible activity. Generally you need to undergo 40 hours of ground training and 40 hours of in-flight training before attempting to take a test. An average cost of flying with a qualified instructor is about $2,000, so it’s really not as inaccessible as many people think! I learned to fly in the US and Canada but when I returned to Hong Kong to get my licence I had to take a series of tests. But it’s important because, unlike a car, which you can just pull over to the side of the road when something goes wrong, once you are in the air, you just go down.
Wow, scary stuff.
Yes. Safety is definitely a priority. I check all the parts before taking off. But there are several very good instructors in Hong Kong.
Why do you love flying a chopper?
I’ve been flying since 2000, and I had run a charitable programme called Operation Flying Eagle. Through the generosity of my sponsors, I was able to take young members of the Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps to the skies. I think when you’re flying in a helicopter you get a different perspective of the world, and something changes within you. That’s why I did it; I wanted to show the young people of Hong Kong the joy of the big blue yonder.
What’s the best time of day to fly?
We are not allowed to fly at night [all pilots are required to radio in their flight routes to air traffic control]but if I take to the skies around 6pm I can just catch the sunset. It’s so beautiful. People generally think it’s better to fly on clear days but sometimes overcast days gives Hong Kong a special mood, which I also like.
You’re an actor and a singer too. What are you up to lately?
I’m in a new film, and I’m designing my own line of watches for Bremont. We’re launching it on September 15 with a party at my friend’s private island home, Little Palm Beach.
You’re a busy man…
It’s been amazing with everything happening at the same time. I feel like I’m at the second phase of my movie career and, by creating my own brand, I’m much more in control. I’m also taking one of my daughters to golf school in South Carolina... so who knows, maybe she’ll get into the LPGA one day!