The Starlite Aviation Group, co-founded by CEO, Slade Thomas and Vice Chairman, Karl Kebert began their journey at Virginia Airport some 19 years ago, their vision: To rule the African Skies. The Company expanded rapidly and evolved and with it the vision: To be a globally significant player in the international aviation industry.
In 1999, we procured a hangar on the Virginia airfield, establishing a pilot training school, that has since grown to global status. The dream did not stop at training. In 2000, we were awarded our first ever contract, in support of the massive flood relief operation during the devastating Mozambique floods. Starlite operated three Puma aircraft, providing helicopter transport for survivors, air ambulance/Medevac support and, delivering medical supplies and food parcels 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 our Company on the global map.
Training grew beyond the borders of South Africa and the global demand for operation contract work increased which called for diversity in the Company, as did our fleet of aircraft and personnel. A second AMO, Starlite Maintenance Johannesburg, was established in Heidelberg, Johannesburg, providing maintenance and logistics to the medium to our heavy lift helicopter fleet of Puma, Bell, Sikorsky and Leonardo (then Agusta Westland) aircraft.
Further expansion at Virginia Airport took place with additional offices and a second hangar constructed to house Starlite Maintenance Durban, responsible for maintaining the expanding fleet of aircraft. Today, this division is a successful AMO that maintains our training fleet and has expanded its offering to third party maintanence.
From 2001, contracts poured in and too our operation expansion into Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Starlite successfully ventured into offshore/onshore oil and gas, salvage, fire-fighting and MEDEVAC/air ambulance support/CASEVAC.
In 2005, Starlite mobilised an entire fleet, air and ground crew, maintenance in just a few days in support of the World Food Programme, assisting in Relief Operations for the victims of the Tsunami in Indonesia and Sumatra.
In 2008, our European Head office was established in Dublin, Ireland and so began the process of aircraft being certified on the Irish register, opening the door to the building of a fully-fledged base in Kosovo, a key position for providing mission-ready aircraft for Medevac, NVG and FLIR operations.
Starlite’s dedication to its fleet expansion and renewal programme, extended our scope and variety of contract work.
In June 2010, Starlite purchased a Sikorsky S92 , the first of its kind on the African continent and made history when landing on the Geowave Master. This aircraft opened the door for the Company to compete in the Oil and Gas industry.
Further expansion at Virginia Airport, included the establishment of, Starlite 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 2012, opened its doors in a state of the art pilot training school facility on Mossel Bay Airfield, Starlite Aviation Training Academy, offering helicopter and fixed wing pilot training. Yet another AMO was established to provide maintenance support to the Academy’s extensive fleet of Robinson, Guimbal and Sling other training aircraft.
What is at the Core of Our Successful Company?
Committed, experienced and passionate, the DNA of the Company that binds us, embodies who we are and is the reason for our success.
Starlite is about employee engagement and we consider our staff to be our most important asset – highly skilled, dedicated, loyal and experienced people, many of whom have been with the Company since its inception.
So, our journey that began on the Virginia airfield has many highlights and threads of success which has lead to our diverse, multi-faceted and forward thinking global aviation business. The story continues….