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Capt William calls it a day after 45 years

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Sunday, January 14, 2018

ABOUT 50 years ago, William Gardiner was just a young boy who used to wave at aeroplanes coming into the Nadi International Airport and when he made sure no one was looking, he would sneak into these planes and admired how they had made those journeys all the way to Fiji.

It was not just a childhood hobby of a postmaster's son; it was also one which gave him the urge to be an airline pilot.

On December 21 last year, Captain Gardiner, as he is commonly known to his work colleagues, flew his last flight to Auckland, New Zealand before finally calling it a day from his home of 45 years, Fiji Airways.

It was a journey of discipline, faith and hard work and one of dedication and confidence.

When he was 20, the young Gardiner joined Fiji Airways starting his career as a co-pilot. This was on October 1, 1973 when he was a fresh graduate from England ... where he was offered the British Counsel Scholarship by the Fijian Government.

"Most of my childhood days were spent in Nadi, dad worked at the post office in Nadi and he used to bring me to the post office," Captain Gardiner said.

"Those days the security was not that tight so I used to visit the planes and have a look and this was how I got interested in it.

"I made up my mind I was going to be an airline pilot and I would travel places."

And it happened to be a journey of courage, bravery, fun and learning for the Suva man, a former student of Suva Grammar School.

Having spent 45 years with the Fiji Airways is not just memories down the lane for the retired pilot; it is also one that will always give him pride and humility having been part of Fiji's national carrier during his tenure as a pilot.

Being a pilot, he shared, was not easy.

It is one that requires strict discipline and faith combined with hard work and truth.

Captain Gardiner, however, is a man who lives a simple life and you can hardly recognise him as an airline pilot when he walks around the streets of Lautoka or while buying his vegetables at the Lautoka market.

"When I started we just did domestic flights then went regional before going international.

"I was 17 when I left Suva Grammar School and went to USP for one year and worked in the bank for one year before I gained my pilot training scholarship and then came back and started flying at 20 years old.

"I started off as a co-pilot then moved on to small planes called the tailenders as a captain and these were the ones that travel to Matei, Savusavu, Labasa and other local airstrips before I moved up the ranks."

During these 45 years, he maintained the core values and principles of a pilot.

An avid golfer and a member of the Lautoka Golf Club, Captain Gardiner always made sure he maintained fitness, ate a lot of local fruits and vegetables and did a lot of exercise so he could be up to par with medical examinations and work-oriented exams.

Like any other workplace, there is always a memory that you will always have, even when you are retired.

For the 56-year-old, it was ferrying a Boeing 747 back to a desert in the US where it was dismantled and burnt to pieces.

"It was one of the best planes.

"I brought in 747- 400 from Singapore and seeing this poor plane being taken back especially when we have been flying it since the 1990s, this majestic airplane had been a part of us for many years."

The father of seven children also believes that it is important to maintain good health, eat good food and live a disciplined life.

Captain William Gardiner also has so many memories of his 45 years journey with the national carrier.

The crash of Air Fiji PC 121 crash at Delailasakau, Naitasiri in 1999 is still in his mind as he was supposed to be one of the passengers on board that Suva-Nadi flight but was told to wait as passengers already on board had to leave for the connecting international flights.

It was a blessing in disguise for him and he said tragic events were all part and parcel of life.

He now enjoys his retirement at his Lautoka home and spends some of his time with his mates at the Lautoka Golf Club.

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