Corvo’s runway seemed to hold no secrets from him. Those who knew him say that he was an excellent storyteller and someone who spread joy wherever he went. It was Gil Pinto de Sousa, Captain Gil, as he became known at SATA Air Açores.
The day on São Jorge Island was wintry. Rain, strong wind, gray sky. A sad winter day with a happy note: Gil Pinto de Sousa had his birthday!
“Captain Gil was a very dear person in the stopovers he passed through. He had a very friendly temperament, always in a good mood. He didn’t have many years with SATA, but he managed to create a friendship wherever he went,” recalls Lúcia Brasil, head of the São Jorge Aerodrome.
“That day, I was in the tower, and I knew something Captain Gil didn’t: that there was a birthday cake waiting for him! As usual, he was following the flight to the minute. This time, I insisted that he took one more turn on the approach to the Island. Below, he prayed that the cloud that hovered over the runway would dissipate. “I didn’t know any more than he did, of course, but I was hoping that time would play in our favor.”
Those who fly and those who take care of SATA Air Açores’ air operations know. Time has its whims. Sometimes it only takes ten minutes for the wind to take the cloud and the runway to get uncovered. And that’s what happened.
The cloud dissipated, the Captain pointed to the runway and landed the small Dornier 228. Passengers disembarked, mission accomplished and Captain Gil, after blowing out the candles on the cake, will have resumed his workday with a soul full of good feelings.
Captain “Gilinho”, as he was affectionately called in Corvo Island, joined SATA Air Açores in 1997. Before that, he was a pilot in the Portuguese Air Force, and, under these circumstances, he made commissions in Guerra do Ultramar and later enlisted in defense of other causes. His temper pushed him to difficult missions and unexpected geographies. Judging by the testimonies that can still be read today, he would have been a fearless adventurer and companion at all times.
He was the second First Officer and took command of the Dornier 228, in 1999. He had a lot of flying experience, which earned him the nickname of “Corvo Island’s runway specialist”. And if Lúcia Brasil remembers this special colleague who has already left, what will the passengers of Corvo say?
On the verge of his retirement, taken by surprise, Corvo passengers took Captain Gil to Vila do Corvo Town Hall to pay him homage. Whoever was there attests that it was close to taking the man on their shoulders. Accompanied by the Mayor, Gil Pinto de Sousa was received with honors and recognized the passengers who, over the years, had flown with him. In the book of honor, he left a record of humility and gratitude for the gesture of kindness and recognition of Corvo’s community.
Here’s another story capable of reminding us how special this unique place called the Azores is, in its geography and beauty; how affectionate his people are; and how special, after all, is the relationship of complicity between the airline that serves the Archipelago and its passengers.