|BOB GUARD:'The daily commute is very |
therapeutic and coming to work allows me
good planning time.'
Captain Bob Guard will close the door this week on an aviation career spanning almost half a century.
On Friday, Air Nelson's long-serving flight operations manager will take the daily commute to Nelson from his home in Blenheim for the last time. It will be among the many things he will miss about the job.
"The daily commute is very therapeutic and coming to work allows me good planning time. I pass regulars each day and we wave, but we don't have a clue who each other is," he said.
Leaving the job would be a "real wrench", but it was time to move on and make way for a new generation. Air Nelson captain Darin Stringer has been appointed as the new flight operations manager.
Mr Guard, who is one of the most respected people in the New Zealand aviation industry, is among the few to have been with Air Nelson from its inception to its role as a key player in Air New Zealand's Link operator fleets.
Mr Guard was recently awarded, for the second time since 1999, the Civil Aviation Authority director's award for an industry individual for his contribution to Air Nelson.
He has spent a total of 37 years with the Air New Zealand group, and 20 of those years were with Air Nelson. Before that, he spent time as an aero club chief flying instructor, and flew Bristol Freighters with Blenheim-based Safe Air.
"I have seen in my time with Air Nelson five general managers starting with Air Nelson founder Robert Inglis. Each manager brought a different style to the company."
His love for aviation was forged during his boyhood in Fairlie, south Canterbury, where his French Pass-born father, Stan, worked as a boat builder.
"It's just a passion I've always had. I've not considered any other career," said Mr Guard, now 65, who earned his private pilot's licence at the age of 16.
His commercial licence followed when he was 20.
Career highlights included how readily Air Nelson embraced change and advancements in aviation technology, and the introduction of the Saab fleet, which has since been replaced with the Q300 aircraft.
"For a flight operations manager to help introduce two new fleets and two flight simulators is something most guys only dream of," Mr Guard said.
Air Nelson got into simulator training five years before the rules required it to.
He captained the first New Zealand-registered Saab flight, in October 1990, and still has a "soft spot" for the aircraft type.
"The company's future lies with the Q300 development, but the Saab was the most satisfying part of my career. It was such a lovely aeroplane and it helped grow the business. We became an excellent regional airline. Air Nelson is known as one of the best regionals in Australasia."
He now aims to encourage young people into aviation careers, and is in talks with educators about setting up a formal liaison role. He has clear views on what sort of person makes a good pilot.
"You have to be disciplined, and in my view, you still need a passion for aviation. I think the good role models are those with discipline and natural competency, and those with a passion for what they are doing. It's not just a job." Mr Guard will now also have time to catalogue a huge library of aviation publications.
"It's been a great journey for me and I've travelled to places I wouldn't have and flown in countries I wouldn't have."