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Starlite's Humble Beginnings at Virginia Airport to Global Status

17 Aug 2016

The Starlite Aviation Group, founded by CEO, Slade Thomas and Executive Director, Karl Kebert began their journey at Virginia Airport some 16 years ago, their vision, to be a globally significant player in the international aviation industry.

Having procured a small building and hangar on the north side of the Virginia airfield, Starlite established a training school that has since grown to global status. The dream did not stop with training and in 2000 the Company was awarded its first ever contract, with the massive flood relief operation after the devastating Mozambique floods. Starlite operated three Puma helicopters, transporting survivors, supplying medical evacuations and delivering medical equipment, food and medical supplies to remote and inaccessible areas. The Company collaborated with the British Government, DFID, the UN World Food Programme, Medicines sans Frontiers and the USA Air Services, bringing relief to the stricken area. It was the success of this operation that set Starlite on the global map.

Training grew beyond the borders of South Africa. The global demand for diversity in the Company’s contract work increased as did Starlite’s fleet of aircraft, personnel and a second AMO was established in Heidelberg, Johannesburg, providing maintenance and logistics to the medium to heavy lift Starlite helicopter fleet.

In 2003, further expansion at Virginia Airport saw the addition of offices and a second hangar was constructed to house Starlite Maintenance Durban, responsible for maintaining the expanding fleet of aircraft. Starlite clinched the dealership for Robinson Helicopters, a highlight in the Company’s calendar and later that year the buildings were officially opened by President of the Robinson Helicopter Company, Mr Frank Robinson.

From 2001 to present day, Starlite was awarded fire-fighting contracts in Spain and expanded its operations into Africa. Starlite ventured into offshore oil and gas and began work in the field of salvage. In 2005, Starlite was mobilised within a few days in support of the World Food Programme, assisting in Relief Operations for the Tsunami disaster in Indonesia and Sumatra. Aircraft were mobilised to Southern Sudan. In 2008, a base was established in Kosovo, providing mission-ready aircraft for Medevac, NVG and FLIR operations. In June 2010, Starlite purchased a Sikorsky S92 making history by landing on the Geowave Master. A European Head office was established in Ireland which today accommodates numerous senior management staff. The Company embarked on a fleet expansion and renewal programme, to include a variety of aircraft for the range of contracts in which Starlite is involved.

Further expansion at Virginia Airport operation included the establishment of, Aero Sales which has proved to be a thriving business, specialising in the sale of helicopter and fixed wing aircraft. Starlite Training continued its expansion and in 2013, opened its doors in a state of the art training facility to students in Mossel Bay and established an AMO, providing maintenance support to the Academy’s extensive fleet of Robinson, Guimbal and other training aircraft.

Starlite is about employee engagement and the Company considers staff to be their most important asset. Many of the highly skilled and experienced staff, many of whom have been with the Company since its inception, now occupy Senior management and Director positions. Committed, experienced and passionate, the DNA of the Company, is core to Starlite’s employees and the story that began on the Virginia airfield recorded many highlights and firsts for this diverse, multifaceted and forward thinking global aviation business.


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