By PETER ESILA
CIVIL Aviation Safety Authority acting chief executive offer and director Wilson Sagati has spent more than 40 years in the aviation industry.
Wilson, 63, was appointed acting CEO when the new authority began in 2010. He was confirmed a director in 2012 and reappointed in 2016 up to August this year.
“I started off as an air traffic controller in Madang in the 70s. I have been in the aviation industry since. I never worked anywhere else.”
Sagati from New Ireland is married and has five children who all went to universities.
“Four had gone to the University of Technology in Lae and one to the University of PNG. They are all working and have their own families. They have done very well for themselves too so I am proud.”
Wilson started primary school in New Ireland in 1963 then attended the United Church-run high school in 1969 before completing Year 11 and 12 at Sogeri.
“I really appreciate the education system at that time. We had very good teachers from England. When I went overseas, they asked whether I went to school in Canada because I spoke very good English.”
Sagati was studying accounting in school.
“I always wanted to become an accountant but they took me to aviation. I followed them and when I started, I was paid K9 per fortnight.”
He started as an air traffic controller and worked his way up to manage air traffic services (with) mostly expatriates at that time in the 1990s.
“I went to do my pilot training in Mt Hagen sponsored by the MAF and got my private pilot licence. The Civil Aviation Authority said I should get a commercial licence too. Now I got air traffic control and some flying experience.”
What was missing was management skills. So he attended the University of PNG for a part-time business management course.
“I was doing this course and at the same time working. It was a challenge. But if you set something that you want to achieve, you will achieve it.”
When he travelled overseas for meetings, he took his books with him “because I wanted to succeed”.
“I want to get my university degree.”
One time, he told his lecturer that he had to go to Mongolia on a duty trip.
“ I started off as an air traffic controller in Madang in the 70s. I have been in the aviation industry since. I never worked anywhere else.”
“While there, we would have meetings during the day and at night I studied. When I returned home, I did my exams and got my degree in business management at UPNG.”
In 1993, he was promoted to deputy director of aviation safety – a position just below the chief executive officer.
He was also sent to Melbourne University to do a management course.
“It was an eye-opener because that was where I was exposed to strategic management, what planning is all about, finance is all about.”
On his return, he graduated with an executive master degree in business administration.
His contract expired in August but has been asked by the Government to stay back for another three months so that a replacement can be found. He is now acting in that position.
“I see that there is a point in your life where you say: Enough is enough. I decided not to renew my contract and make way for a new CEO. (But) I will wait and see.”
Working as an air traffic controller in his early days was fun because there were many expatriates around.
“We had to break the mentality of inferiority.”
He was the first local to be promoted to air traffic controller while in Madang from 1978 to 1980.
“I was the first one to break into air traffic control. It became a stereotype for me. All we did was: Clear for takeoff. Clear to land every day. It was satisfying.”
He is now waiting to be released to land – and take a much-needed break after three decades of dedicated service to the nation.