It's amazing to think that considering their giant size nowadays all the Far-Eastern majors like Singapore, Malaysian, Korean, Thai Airways, China Airlines etc were tiny operators until well into the mid 70s.
In fact most Oriental traffic at the time was still really the preserve of BOAC, Qantas, Pan Am and TWA. Airlines like Cathay Pacific were largely restricted to regional operations on infrequent multi-stop routes with small fleets of piston-liners and early jets.
Cathay Pacific was formed in 1946 when an Australian, Syd de Kantzow, and an American, Roy Farrell, decided over drinks to setup an air charter carrier. A single DC-3 started operations but expansion attracted the attention of Butterfield & Swire who bought a 45% holding. Hong Kong Airways was acquired in 1959 and a single Lockheed L-188 Electra purchased. Meanwhile Convair was struggling to sell its 880 and developed a longer range variant called the 880M which suited Cathay's operations well. Two were ordered new giving Cathay its first jets in April 1962 and becoming VR-HFS/FT. HFS was first flown as N8489H with Convair and operated with Cathay until September 1975 when she was sold to Airtrust Singapore along with VR-HFY and VR-HGA. She became N48060 with Orient Pacific Airways and was written off on 21st August 1976 in a take-off accident caused by incorrect weight balancing.
Cathay grew its CV-880 fleet by acquiring secondhand examples. Three were ex-VIASA arriving from 1965-1967 (HFX, HFZ, HGC). Alaska Airlines and Civil Air Transport singletons arrived in 1966 (HFY) and 1968 (HGA), and two ex-Japan Airlines planes in 1970 (HGF/GG). VR-HGG was JA8024 with Japan Airlines delivered to them in June 1962. Leased for 7 months to Indy Air in February 1979, as N880JT, she wasn't broken up until 1985.
Several CV-880s were lost in Cathay service. VR-HFX crashed after an aborted take-off at Hong Kong in 1967 whilst another, VR-HFZ, was lost in June 1972; destroyed over Vietnam by a bomb killing all 81 aboard. The bomb was placed by a Thai police officer to enable him to collect insurance for his fiancée and daughter. The 880s were gradually withdrawn from 1974. Cathay had taken delivery of 12 ex-Northwest 707s from July 1971-July 1975 and also began to receive Lockheed Tristars in August.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: