The Magical Pilot story of Capt. Patrick Roa, Garbo sa Cagayan de Oro
By Tonet Rivera
for Clear Prop
Patrick Roa flies A320 and A321 airliners, and calls himself an accidental airline pilot. But was it really accidental?
Patrick hails from Cagayan de Oro. Like many young boys, he dreamed of becoming a pilot. But he didn’t really know why.
His grandfather died when Patrick was just 5. (You will meet the grandfather later in this tale.) Even today Patrick remembers holding a Matchbox toy, a green and white Cessna 421, during the funeral services at Xavier University.
His grandmother, a Cebuana, left him a trust fund when she died ten years later. The money was for his higher education. Today Patrick considers his grandmother the primary enabler of his aviation career.
Only later did he learn the other half of the story.
Patrick first immersed himself in aviation at old Lahug airfield in Cebu, where the storied hangar denizens infected him with the passion for General Aviation.
After Lahug closed, Patrick took his training at Archie Po's flying school at the AirSpan hangar at NAIA, where the high tempo of non-stop General Aviation operations exhilarated him. He soloed in a Cessna 152XP with a 150-horsepower engine, the equivalent of putting a BMW engine in a Volkswagen.
In 1993 a close cousin flew a Pacific Airways Grumman Tiger into IMC between Cotabato and Lebak, and was lost at sea. Patrick has lost other friends in aviation, but that first loss was a wake-up call, like a railroad switch that rechanneled him with the knowledge that mistakes and misfortune in aviation are paid for in blood.
After multi-engine training with Meynard Halili (also featured in Clear Prop), Patrick acquired a Piper Seneca, and with that and another pilot’s Cessna 421 he began what can only be described as a mix of “Air America” and “American Made” missions that will not be described here (NO, he wasn’t carrying poppy leaves or paratrooper pigs).
Night flights, uncontrolled airstrips, Islanders, DC-3s, a pressurized Beech 88 Queen Air with generators instead of alternators – he was young, charged with adrenalin and flying with one of the legends of Philippine General Aviation. Patrick began to build the 13,000++ hours he now has in his logbooks, which also record an astounding 40+ different types and models of aircraft that he has flown.
In 1996, Patrick visited the Asian Institute of Management to ask about its famed Airline Transport Management Course. The course was run by Professor/Capt. Roberto Lim, an Annapolis graduate who trained pilots in B-17s and B-29s during World War II.
Capt. Lim pushed PAL into the jet age with the Douglas DC-8. Lim also established the Aviation Safety Foundation Philippines after his wife was lost in the PAL HS748 CFIT accident on approach to Baguio in 1987.
Bobby Lim met with Patrick, as he did with all the applicants for the course. Looking Patrick straight in the eye, he asked about Patrick’s goals. Then Lim leaned back then asked, “Are you in any way related to the tall Olympian Pio Roa from Cagayan de Oro?”
The question surprised Patrick. Pio Roa was Patrick's grandfather, an Olympian athlete, an Ateneo Hall of Fame sportsman, and a basketball coach for the pre-war Blue Eagles. Patrick was just 5 years old when his grandfather died.
Now Capt. Lim of PAL/AIM was asking a grown-up Patrick if he was related to the elder Roa.
“Yes sir, I happen to be his first grandson.”
Lim smiled warmly and leaned back. “So, you’re the one.”
It turned out that whenever Capt. Lim flew VIPs and ex-Presidents to Cagayan de Oro, grandfather Pio Roa would be Lim's host, wanting to talk about airplanes and aviation.
The elder Roa often told Lim that he wanted his grandson to be a pilot, an aviador. When Patrick was a toddler, his grandfather took him to the Camp Evangelista Army airfield. Army officers made the tiny Patrick sit in Cessna 180 cockpits. His grandfather also took Patrick to Lumbia Airport to watch the C-123s, YS-11s, F-27s and the loud BAC-111s. His grandfather didn’t say much. He just carried his toddler grandson in his arms as the airplanes thundered in and out.
Now the grandson WAS a pilot, and was beginning to understand where all the influence and passion for aviation came from. His grandfather was an aviation nut who had purposely infected his tiny toddler grandson.
When Patrick heard these stories, his aviation career took on a deeper meaning and purpose. Patrick owed his aviation career to his grandmother AND his grandfather, after all.
Even today, Patrick continues to read anything he can about aviation. He credits a lot of his aviation knowledge to reading, and labels himself an aviation nerd. As we’ve said before in Clear Prop, a good pilot never stops learning.
Can the aviation passion bug jump across generations? One day, out of the blue, Patrick’s daughter proclaimed her desire to become a pilot. Patrick played it by ear to see how badly infected she was.
Today Regine has a commercial pilot license and is closing in on her instrument check ride. Her next step is multi-engine training in the Baron that Meynard Halili used to own. Full circle.
Accidental pilot? At Clear Prop, we don’t believe in accidents.
Founded in 2018, Clear Prop we will inspire and motivate professionals and enthusiasts in Philippine aviation, by sharing knowledge and insight from the best aviation professionals in the country.
If you haven’t listened to Patrick’s advice to pilots and aspiring pilots, you can listen to him in all the episodes of Clear Prop.
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