Capt Tim Watts, manager of Gama Aviation's Learjet fleet, is swapping the flight deck for retirement after 21 years' service with the Farnborough-based business aviation company.
He made his last flight on a Lear 45 from Geneva to be greeted with congratulations from Farnborough airport air traffic controllers, water cannons on arrival, and a surprise champagne reception at Gama's offices. "I was just thinking, I wonder if the boss knows it's my last flight," says Watts. "I was completely overwhelmed."
Watts, who previously ran his own double glazing company, caught the aviation bug late. He learned to fly at Fairoaks airport in Chobham where Gama has its roots and acquired his own aircraft, a Piper Cherokee.
After becoming a flight instructor he joined Gama to fly the Super King Air in 1989. He has only ever flown commercially for Gama and quickly became an integral part of the team. "It's the end of an era," says Paul Cremer, Gama's commercial manager. "It's always sad to say goodbye to an individual who has been so dedicated to the company, but we all wish him well in his retirement."
Watts is looking forward to spending time with his wife at his new home in Murcia, Spain, and enjoying lots of swimming. "I really loved flying with Gama. Every day was varied and I flew some very interesting clients but the highlight was the annual flight for the aviation charity fly2Help and seeing those delighted children's faces. I was made to feel very much part of the Gama family and I have huge admiration for Gama Aviation, the team and terrific company they have created."
Gama, founded in 1983 in the UK by two commercial pilots, Marwan Khalek and Stephen Wright, employs over 300 staff at bases in Europe, North America and the Middle East and operates more than 75 business jet aircraft.