SilkAir jet's multi-stop flight across the Pacific

It took three days and three stops for Captain John Lee and his co-pilots to fly SilkAir's shiny new Boeing jet home from Seattle in the United States.

The single-aisle plane, not built for long-haul flying, had to stop for refuelling and to give the crew time for rest.

Not that anyone complained.

"We spent the first night at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii. None of us had been there before, so it was exciting.

"We had local food and nice fresh cold beers. It was good fun," said Capt Lee, 42, chief pilot of SilkAir's Boeing 737 fleet.

His message to his team: "We work hard and we remain focused. But when it's time to relax, we relax."

Capt Lee and three other pilots, including one from Boeing, as well as five engineers flew the first of SilkAir's 54 new Boeing jets from Seattle to Singapore.

The plane arrived at Changi Airport at about 11.40am on Wednesday, in time for its public debut at the Singapore Airshow on Friday.

It had left the Boeing factory in Seattle on Sunday, arriving in Honolulu after a four-hour flight.

The next morning, it was off to Majuro (Marshall Islands) in the Pacific Ocean.

Capt Lee said: "The runway is built on an atoll, so it's as if you're landing on an aircraft carrier; water on your right and left. The weather was perfect and everything went well. We refuelled and were back in the air in an hour."

Four hours later, the team was in Guam, also in the Pacific Ocean, for the second night stop.

"It had been a long day, so we had a nice quiet evening," he said.

The final leg brought the crew back home. They had clocked a total flight time of 21 hours and 40 minutes.

Capt Lee said: "Everything went well and we had good support from the Boeing team the entire journey."

The best part is he gets to do it all over again in two weeks - when he brings home the second aircraft.

The rest of the fleet will make their way to Singapore over the next seven years.

SilkAir's order for the 54 Boeing jets - its biggest ever - is for fleet renewal and expansion.

When it previously used Airbus, it would fly new planes home from Toulouse, France or Hamburg, Germany.

Capt Lee said: "I will bring home the first four Boeing jets and after that, as our pilots are progressively trained, they can go."

His wife, with whom he has two children, is already complaining.

He said: "She told me I have enough time to just clear my bags, do the laundry and re-pack."

But she will soon pack her bags as well. Capt Lee said: "I plan to take her with me to Seattle for one of the delivery trips and from there, she can take a commercial flight back while I bring the Boeing home."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.