Roy Farrell and the Founding of Cathay Pacific

On this day, June 19 in the year 1912, the co-founder of Cathay Pacific Airways was born in Texas, United States. His name was Roy Clinton Farrell, a pilot turned businessman.

Roy Farrell
Roy Farrell (Credit:

In 1940, at age 28, Roy started to learn how to fly an airplane. Two years after, he got his pilot license. He wanted to join China National Aviation Company (CNAC) but he was not qualified due to lack of sufficient experience. Determined as he was, he bought a single engine plane and began flying. Soon, he was in India where CNAC set up a base to source supplies for the Chinese war effort. He was hired as a pilot, flying above the dangerous Himalayan sky transporting cargo.

Roy thought it was a good business opportunity to supply goods to the Chinese when the war is over. In 1945, he established Roy Farrell Import-Export Company in Hong Kong. Since he could not find a reliable transportation company to bring his goods to China, Roy decided to put up his own airline. With the help of the Australian Sydney de Kantzow, Cathay Pacific Airways was incorporated in 1946.

In 1948, Roy relinquished control of Cathay Pacific because the British did not want non-British businessmen to control firms related to national security. He used the money from the deal to set up unsuccessful airlines in the Philippines and Burma. Disappointed, he went back to his native Texas where he established a profitable oil company.

Roy had two sons from two marriages. He died in Texas in 1996 at the age of 84.

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