Nari Williams-Singh: Director of the skies
A prepubescent infatuation with airplanes was, for Nari Williams-Singh, the catalyst for an illustrious career in civil aviation which has spanned more than three decades.
The recently appointed director general for the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) takes pride in regulating the industry and performing various administrative duties, but his real passion still is, and probably always will be, fixing airplanes.
"Towards the end of sixth form, I was interested in avionics and it was at the time a fairly new field," the proud Calabar High School old boy, who eventually joined the industry at age 17 after much thought, told Outlook.
His initial intention was to become a pilot, but after a few flying lessons while studying in Canada, he came to the realisation that he much preferred building aircraft to flying them.
'A BIT BORING'
"I know pilots don't like to hear this, but I actually found flying a little bit boring, and I found the aircraft maintenance engineering side much more interesting, so my career path took me along maintenance," he added. "I am still like a little kid when I see an airplane take off and land. I still get very excited," he said, as his voice became tinted with excitement.
"What I find exciting is that things are always changing. I have seen in my time so many changes in aviation; from the technology to the training, to the requirements, to the personnel," he explained.
Williams-Singh first joined the JCAA in 1997 as an aviation safety inspector, and gradually moved up the ranks. He became the acting manager with responsibility for airworthiness oversight in 2002, and four years later, was appointed the director of flight safety.
Each appointment came with a larger staff complement and even more responsibilities, but this fact was of little consequence, as Williams-Singh got to contribute to the maintenance and even the improvement of Jamaica's enviable air-safety record with each promotion.
"As you progress up, you get less out in the field and more in an administrative and regulatory role," he explained.
His short stint as the acting deputy director general with responsibility for regulatory affairs essentially paved the way for him to become the deputy director general in 2013 and eventually culminated in his accession to the top post of director general in February of this year. It's a job he loves, even if it has meant he gets to spend less time fixing aircraft.
"I have all these tools at home and everything, but I really don't use them like that. I only use them for household activities. Sometimes I miss getting my hands on the airplane and getting dirty, but in the role that I am now, unless I have my own aircraft, it's not something I do as the regulator," he said.
As the director general, Williams-Singh has direct responsibility for the regulatory obligations of the JCAA and is responsible for developing and implementing plans to achieve international regulatory compliance and meet the Government's corporate governance requirements.
"At the Authority, we are poised to do some major development and upgrades in a number of areas," he added, while explaining that the renewal of the civil aviation regulations is among the areas of greatest focus for him and his team at this time.
But William-Singh's life is not just about airplanes and regulating their movements. He is a man with many interests and among them is cricket and bird-shooting, which is a big part of his August to September list of activities.
Cricket has always been a constant in his life and his wife, Trisha, says that he religiously gets up during the wee hours of the morning to catch a couple matches before they start getting ready for work. "Nari enjoys his cricket, whether playing or watching," she said.
Family is also very important for the father of one, whose daughter currently resides in Canada. His parents have always been supportive, but firm - with him being one of three boys, sibling rivalry in their close-knit family was a reality. While Williams-Singh and his younger brother, Ravi, attended Calabar, his older brother Vijay attended Kingston College, so their performance in the cricket matches was something else that gave them bragging rights.
"In school, I was the quiet one. People don't believe it now, but I was very shy," said the Authority's head, who seemed very reserved in his suit.
The brothers' bond grew even stronger when they flew the nest and relocated to Canada to study. Being away from their parents was a new experience, but the opportunity to study abroad presented a number of opportunities for Williams-Singh. Between 1986 and 1990, he was a senior aircraft instrument technician with Wright Instruments Limited in Ontario, Canada, and then became the aircraft maintenance engineer for Skycharter Limited between 1990 and 1995. These were well-paying jobs, but after 13 years in Canada, he desperately wanted to come back home.
"I always wanted to come back to Jamaica; that was my goal - to move back home," said Williams-Singh, who enjoys going to Treasure Beach with friends and planning social gatherings with his wife.
He admits that his wife, who is the corporate relations manager at Digicel, is far more outgoing than he is, but they both agree that, together, they make the perfect match. His wife had popped in during the interview for lunch, which they often try to share regularly despite their busy schedules. The corporate relations executive said lunch and gym time are things they look forward to, as it allows them to bond.
"She is my sounding board; she is my conscience," the husband said with pride.
Williams-Singh has adopted his parents Ken and Beryl Williams-Singh's penchant for giving back to society, and as such, is very involved in several charity and community outreach projects. He is also a justice of the peace, the president of the Driftwood Gun Club, and the first vice-president of the National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica. He especially loves going to the Marie Atkins Shelter on the fourth Saturday of every month to assist with the serving of breakfast.
"It's a very grounded experience for me, because when you go there, no matter how rough a week or a month you have had, and no matter how you think things are bad for you, you go there and you see some 200 people at this shelter who have nothing," he said.
The sky is the limit for the civil aviation manager, who has already been making huge strides in this field. The importance of air travel for the development of countries never ceases to amaze him.
"It makes the world smaller and opens up other things. People can go to other countries and people from other countries can come here and there is the mixing of cultures and new ideas," he shared.
"It's a marvel really. When you look at this big heavy thing in the sky, it's a marvel" asserted Williams-Singh, who has a row of miniature planes on the bookshelf in his spacious office at the JCAA Winchester Road headquarters.