Flight Plan

It’s not always that one comes across Sutch an enthusiast

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on October 30, 2018

Mark Sutch, Regional General Manager, South Asia, Middle East and Africa, Cathay Pacific Airways

Meet Mark Sutch, aviation buff, wine-maker, avid biker — and regional GM of an airline

When you meet someone like a regional general manager of an airline, you tend to assume that his interests begin, and end, with flying and aviation.

But if there is someone who proves you wrong, it is Mark Sutch, Regional General Manager, South Asia, Middle East and Africa, Cathay Pacific Airways. Sutch, whose father was the chief executive officer of the Hong Kong-headquartered Cathay Pacific, discusses blending wine and owning vintage things with as much passion as he does his interest in aviation.

According to Sutch, the aviation bug hit him at a very young age, thanks largely to his father and what he did for a living. Being in boarding school in the UK, Sutch looked forward to the long flights to Hong Kong where his parents were based.

“I have fond memories of flying on the British Airways’ Boeing 707. The highlight of the holidays was the aeroplane. Let us be honest, in those days airports were simple and much more fun places to be. It was less stressful,” says the 44-year-old.

In fact, it was during one such trip that Sutch got his first taste of India as the aircraft flying him from London developed engine trouble and had to break journey in Kolkata. Sutch came to India once again last year as Cathay’s Regional General Manager.

“When it came to a career choice I wanted to have something that was aviation-based,” says Sutch, who completed his university education in the UK with a degree in Chinese. He applied to the Swire group, the biggest shareholders in Cathay, and joined Cathay as a management trainee in 1997.

And so began Sutch’s 21-year-old journey with the airline. He moved in different geographies and through different divisions of the airline’s business — like being a country manager, a revenue manager and also a cargo manager.

From Catalina to Cabironet

In hindsight, joining aviation proved to be a good decision as his journey helped Sutch develop his other passions. On a flight, a pilot mentioned investing in the amphibian aircraft Catalina, which immediately appealed to Sutch, possibly because Cathay operated the Catalina in the late 1940s between Hong Kong and Macau — Catalina landed on water as there was no runway in Macau.

Today, Sutch is part-owner of a vintage Catalina aircraft used during World War II. This aircraft is showcased in airshows across Europe.

Mark Sutch is part-owner of a vintage Catalina used during World War II

 

Years passed and then Sutch got a chance to follow his other passion — wine. His interest in wine developed around 2007 when he was working as Country Manager for Cathay in France. So consuming was this interest that a few years later Sutch was blending his own wine, in partnership with a broker in Bordeaux. While the broker negotiated with the wineries to buy grapes, Sutch used a particular winery to blend the wine.

“They take care of most of the scientific side. But the most important thing is blending the Cabironet and that is what I have done. I have managed to come up with four vintages now — each with its own name and story behind it. The first was with my brother, called Frae Sutch or the ‘Sutch Brothers’. Another is called the ‘Flying Pig’ as my shareholder in that is CEO Rupert Hog,” says Sutch.

The wine that Sutch blends is not available in the market but just call him home for a meal and chances are he will come with a bottle.

Soon after his arrival in India, another bug bit Sutch, that of owning and driving the Royal Enfield motorcycle and this when he did not know how to ride one. He not only learnt how to ride it but eventually he also purchased one. Next came driving it from Mumbai to Leh-Ladakh, a feat he achieved earlier this year, along with a winemaker friend from Bordeaux.

It is difficult to ask someone with such diverse interests about what he thinks is next for him. Is it following his father’s footsteps and occupying the CEO’s chair, particularly since some of the people posted in India before him went on to occupy the top position in the airline? “I will just do my best. If I can get up the ladder, that is fantastic,” says Sutch. Or perhaps Sutch might change his mind and start selling his wine commercially. That is, if another bug doesn’t bite him.

Published on October 30, 2018

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