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Captain Jackson retires: Seychelles' aviation legend celebrates 48 years as a pilot

Victoria, Seychelles | August 30, 2023, Wednesday @ 10:28 in National » GENERAL | By: Salifa Karapetyan Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 5247
Captain Jackson retires: Seychelles' aviation legend celebrates 48 years as a pilot

Jackson retired as a captain for the national airline, Air Seychelles, earlier in August. (Air Seychelles)

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A retiring Seychellois pilot, who has flown passengers safely across borders for over 40 years, shared that the most challenging moment of his career was missing out on family gatherings and events.

Francois Jackson, who retired as a captain for the national airline, Air Seychelles, earlier in August, met with President Wavel Ramkalawan on Tuesday.

"Being away from home was one of the biggest challenges. Being a long-haul pilot causes family life to suffer as you are away from home for 6 months of the year on average and you aren't there for birthdays, Christmas, and other family functions," Jackson told reporters.

For him, this topped direct career-related challenges which included keeping a good medical record, tough training, and unwavering discipline. On the other hand, he jokingly said that his greatest achievement is making it to retirement without bending an airplane.

"I managed to achieve my dreams working with the national airline. One of the bigger achievements is the number of Seychellois pilots I have trained in the early 80s. Quite a few of the pilots flying in Seychelles or overseas went through my training, so that was a personal achievement," said Jackson.

During his meeting with the President, Jackson shared that discussions centered around Air Seychelles, his role in training local pilots, and the challenges faced.

"We talked about the new developments in routes, possibly looking at the Middle East as countries like Saudi Arabia progress out of being oil-driven into possibly getting into tourist-driven. Saudi Arabia has huge amounts of beautiful areas," said Jackson.

Captain Jackson (left) met with President Wavel Ramkalawan on Tuesday. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY  

Jackson operated his last flight with Air Seychelles on Thursday, August 17, 2023, touching down at the Seychelles International Airport onboard flight HM048 from Mauritius. The flight was greeted by a traditional water cannon salute in honor of his many years of service.

His relationship with aviation started in 1975 when he joined the Aeroclub in Seychelles for private training.

"My first flight was onboard a small Cessna 150, a single-engine aircraft at the Seychelles International Airport. The instructor was a Swiss woman named Agnes Robinson. I sat in this airplane, she started the engine and it started to shake. We taxied and took off, and I remember saying to myself "This is fun!" I could see why my father wanted to fly. I really enjoyed it and never looked back," said Jackson.

Having fallen in love with flying, he furthered his studies in the United States to become a commercial pilot. Jackson joined Air Seychelles in 1989 as one of the few Seychellois pilots at the time. During his career also had the opportunity to fly with Vietnam Airlines and Etihad Airways.

Speaking of the most memorable moment of his 48 years as a pilot, Jackson shared that he experienced landing a plane with a failed engine.

"I was operating a Boeing 767 flying from the UK to an island in the South Atlantic. That was different. We had to divert to Dakar in Senegal, which luckily was only about 300 kilometers away flying on one engine, otherwise my career has been basically just good fun and smooth," said Jackson.

He said that now that he is retired, he will be going fishing more often, but is more than happy and willing to help if the national airline or any other aviation operator in Seychelles wishes to have his services, especially in the operations part as he has a "wealth of experience in this business."

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