THERE were some real 'cowboys of the air' in the early days of flying in the Pacific islands. Some had little, if any, flying experience before jumping into primitive aircraft and island-hopping with fare-paying passengers.
The poor old passengers had never been in a plane before, so they wouldn't have known they were taking their lives into their hands.
A bloke called Fleming - no one knows much about him, not even his Christian name - was the first. He built the plane himself in 1922 - in his backyard in Suva.
The good Mr Fleming is believed to have crashed out very early in his aviation career.
Then, at the start of the 1930s, a ships captain turned aviator, Gordon Fenton, had a British-built Simmonds Spartan biplane shipped to Fiji by sea.
Its assembly was haphazard and apparently at first the wings were put on back-to-front.
It took Fleming some time to work out why it was having trouble getting airborne.
A friend checked the assembly instructions, worked out the mistake, and Captain Fenton was off and flying.
He would fly the 180 kilometres between the capital Suva in the southeast and Lautoka in the west in one hour and 35 minutes.
Local businessmen were impressed and began using Captain Fenton regularly.
He reckoned he was on a gold mine. He set up the first Fiji Airways in 1933, but fell victim to the Great Depression and the airline soon folded.
Like with so many larger-than-life South Pacific figures, stories abound concerning Captain Fenton.
One is that he would test pilots looking for jobs by asking them to fly under the 'Penny-farthing' Bridge on the Rema River near Suva ? at high-tide.
There was not a lot of room and only the most daring of airmen would even attempt such a feat.
About the same time as the airline was being set up, another local enthusiast, building contractor Alf Marlow, imported the first of three 1922 Dormier Libelle flying boats from Germany.
There were many stories told about Marlow, too.
It was said that sometimes he would get tired of flying the route from Suva to Lautoka and would land his aircraft on top of a train owned by the Colonial Sugar Refinery, taking cane from Sigatoka.
A seaplane? As the proverb says - pigs might fly but they are very unlikely birds.
But then along came a bloke who actually knew what he was doing.
He was a brilliant pioneer Australian aircraft navigator, Harold Gatty, who was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City in 1931 with another intrepid aviation trail-blazer, Wiley Post, for their record round-the-world flight.
In a Lockheed Vega they flew around the globe in 8 days, 15 hours and 15 minutes, beating the previous record by more than 12 days.
The following year the US Congress passed a special bill so the Australian could be awarded America's Distinguished Flying Cross.
Another measure was passed to allow President Herbert Hoover to appoint Gatty to a senior government role after the aviator had refused to give up his Australian citizenship and become an American.
During the war he worked under General Douglas MacArthur as director of Allied transport in the South-West Pacific before being transferred to the US Navy to work on polar navigation.
After the conflict ended, Gatty settled in Fiji.
Gatty's airline started out as Katafanga Estates Airways as its headquarters was on Katafanga island which Gatty had bought on the eastern Fijian coast. But the name was soon changed to Fiji Airways.
Its first flight was on September 1, 1951, with a seven-seater De Havilland Dragon Rapide flying between Nausori and Lautoka.
There was a further name change to Air Pacific, but in May 2012 the company reverted to the former name of Fiji Airways.
And, as the clich tells us, the rest is history.
This year, for the first time Fiji Airways will carry more than one million passengers on international flights in a calendar year.
Tomorrow one passenger flying out of Nadi Airport will be feted as the millionth, and lavished with special souvenirs of the occasion.
In addition, he or she will be given a free ticket to the overseas destination of his or her choice.