[Antigua, Tony Gilkes] Coming back to earth after 43 years

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[Antigua, Tony Gilkes] Coming back to earth after 43 years

Unread post by bimjim » Fri Sep 21, 2012


[Antigua, Tony Gilkes] Coming back to earth after 43 years
Martina Johnson
Friday, September 21st, 2012.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua

He’s usually the last to exit the plane at the end of his flight, but yesterday Captain David Anthony “Tony” Gilkes was allowed to disembark first as he closed the curtains on 43 “remarkable” years as a commercial pilot.

At 65 years old, Gilkes said he still has a lot of energy to stay at the controls, but having reached the worldwide pilot retirement age, there’s no way he could steer another commercial flight.

But Gilkes is happy nonetheless. He has approximately 20,000 flying hours under his wings, a feat most of the world’s population will never achieve.

Wake up time yesterday was 4:15 am. The flight got off the ground in St Vincent bound for Grenada – forward to his homeland Barbados and final landing occurred in Antigua.

For his final journey in – carrying 48 passengers and cabin crew Fitzroy Duprey – Captain Gilkes made a “low pass” over the runway, dipped the wings of LIAT flight 362 in salute to scores of his cheering colleagues on the ramp and made a fine landing at 10:20 am.

Then, there was the special water salute halfway to the tarmac – where two fire trucks were positioned to spray a water arch over the Dash 8 aircraft.

Right after he arrived, the captain told OBSERVER Media he had mixed feelings about his departure, since, apart from his wife Martha Watkins-Gilkes who has been at his side for 34 years, flying is his love and passion.

“It was wonderful. But that’s it, now it’s all done. Thank you all so much. This is totally unexpected. I knew I was going to get a water salute, but I didn’t think anything else,” he said in a somewhat sombre tone, yet smiling.

“I shall miss the flying and most of the people, but there are some aspects of the business I obviously would be happy not to face again – like waking up at three (o’clock) in the morning,” the captain added with a chuckle.

Captain Gilkes’ colleagues said they regret he had to go, but happy to have shared the skies with him.

Captain Martin Laville, who co-piloted the retiree’s last flight, said, “I am very thankful for this momentous occasion as it brings great memories for me. He started me off at LIAT in my training initially and then as the simulator in Canada – so lucky enough for me, I ended up doing the last one with him.”

For the duration of his 25 years as a pilot, Captain Arthur Senhouse trained and worked with Captain Gilkes.

He said, “It is never easy to see a good colleague walk away from something he loves very, very dearly, and not only that, but something he is very, very good at. He did ground instructions, simulation instructions and flight instructions so we have a very deep appreciation for his abilities.

Out of his 43 years as a captain, Gilkes spent 40 with LIAT and three years working with the late Sir Freddie Laker who pioneered cheap air travel to the Caribbean in the 1970s.

As it relates to his plans for the future, Captain Gilkes said he would make a decision by month end as he already has a few job offers from which to choose.

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Re: [Antigua, Tony Gilkes] Coming back to earth after 43 yea

Unread post by ACAV8R » Sun Sep 23, 2012

Congratulations Captain Tony on a well-deserved retirement after a stellar career.

I remember the day when you started at flying school!

Enjoy your retirement...you've earned it, my Friend.

All the Best,

(Capt.) Ian Edghill (AC Ret'd).

OTP, but not OTH

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Re: [Antigua, Tony Gilkes] Coming back to earth after 43 yea

Unread post by GSS » Sun Sep 23, 2012


How many Caribbean pilots must have started their airline career journeys off under your instruction at LIAT? The number will be large and no doubt you may have trouble remembering them all but as probably your tallest ever understudy, I want to say thanks for getting me started... just yesterday I was walking around the aircraft I now fly and thankfully reflecting on what a privilege I enjoy in doing this job that we pilots love so! I learned to fly at a school in Canada but I learned to be an airline pilot at LIAT, and you played a large part in that.

Enjoy your retirement and hopefully next time we visit ANU, you will be there and not on a sim training trip in ATL or YYZ!

All the best.

John Badley.

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Re: [Antigua, Tony Gilkes] Coming back to earth after 43 yea

Unread post by islandflyer » Sun Sep 23, 2012

A wonderful tribute, John. Well said.

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