Rick Nardine, Vietnam Airlines pilot, coming home to retire
By Bernie Schmitt
A Vincennes native hopes to return to his hometown soon, after having spent a career overseas flying passenger jets to distant locales.
Recently Rick Nardine and his older daughter, Erica, were visiting his parents, Al and Janice Nardine in Vincennes, as Rick was making arrangements to move his wife and younger children from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam to Knox County.
He’s working his way back home, he said.
“It’s better for the children to grow up here, rather than there,” he said. “And I’ve wanted to be back here, too.”
Life in Vincennes is considerably more peaceful than the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s largest city, he said, and he’s hoping to ease into retirement from Vietnam Airlines by working two more years, then splitting his time between Ho Chi Minh City and Vincennes.
“I can retire if I want,” he said. “But I’m hoping they’ll let me work a month on, a month off, so I can still work some but come back here, too, every other month.”
His wife, Lanni, and two daughters, Skylar, 5, and Jessica, 2, will arrive in Vincennes sometime in November or December, he said. His visit home was busy, as he was making arrangements for child
care and enrolling the oldest daughter in pre-school.
His wife plans to help with the Nardine family businesses, most notably Progress Laundry and Dry Cleaners, and the Coin Center Laundromat, that the family has operated for years. Rick’s brother, Mike, has mostly been running the businesses and is hoping to ease into retirement himself. Their mother, Janice, continues to supervise, he said.
“Mike wants to get out of the businesses and Lanni will be here to learn and to help with that,” Rick says. “She’s going to take some courses at Vincennes Univeristy, too, to brush up on her English and other things.”
Nardine has lived in Ho Chi Minh City for more than 20 years. The city has grown considerably in that time, he said. The eight-mile trip from his home to the airport now takes upward of 45 minutes to an hour, depending on time of day. It used to take 10 minutes.
“It’s crowded there,” he said. “But the people are very nice, very friendly. They work hard for little money, but they make a living and seem content.”
Nardine’s specialty is flying Airbus aircraft, large jets that carry more than 200 passengers. Airbus Group is headquartered in the Netherlands. The only other company that supplies such large jets is the American-based company Boeing.
Nardine has flown the Airbus 330 for the last eight years, a plane that carries up to 285 passengers. He’s flown the Airbus 320 and 321, too.
“I could fly a newer aircraft, the Airbus 350, but I don’t want to sign another five-year contract,” he said.
He is the longest-serving pilot for Vietnam Airlines.
“I’m the only original guy left,” he said. “The others have all retired or have died.”
He works with Rischworth Aviation of New Zealand, too, working as the company’s representative for all foreign pilots in Vietnam.
“I show them around Vietnam, get them acclimated, help them get any business taken care of, take them to restaurants and things like that,” he said. “We have pilots from Europe, South America and other places.”
Nardine’s interest in aviation developed as a child, when his dad was part of a Marine Corps. air wing.
“That got me interested in flying,” he said. “It was pretty exciting to see all these guys come in from flying, to see them take off — they were kind of like Tom Cruise in that movie — and they were at the top of their game. I always wanted to do that.”
A knee injury his junior year at Rivet High School put an end to his basketball dreams, so in getting over not being able to play, he started studying aviation, ultimately enrolling at Vincennes University’s aviation program.
“It worked out for me,” he said.
After being a flight instructor in Texas, Nardine went to work for Braniff Airlines. Then he worked for Leisure Air, working out of Ireland, Germany and Spain. In 1994, he got on with China Airlines in Taiwan. It is here where he met his first wife and where his daughter Erica lives and goes to college.
“Taiwan is nice,” Nardine said. “It’s crowded, but the people there are very nice, too.”
This was Erica’s first visit to Vincennes, indeed her first time in America. She said she likes the peacefulness of Knox County and how clean everything is. She plans to finish her bachelor’s degree in economics in Taiwan, then maybe earn a master’s degree at Indiana University, Bloomington, or another American school before returning to Asia.
Now that her father is making plans to return to his home, she expects to make many more visits to Vincennes. Nardine’s wife, Lanni, also likes Vincennes, he said, having visited several times before.
“I love Vincennes,” Nardine said. “This is my home. I think downtown is looking great, and it seems things are picking up. The University does a wonderful job and makes the city look great. I look forward to coming back.”
His job as an airline pilot has taken him to the far corners of the world, and he’s been able to see and experience many of the world’s largest cities. He said he’s even experienced the beaches of Vietnam and California.
“But honestly, there’s no place like home,” he said.