Slade Thomas, co-founder of the Starlite Aviation Group, holds the position of CEO for the Starlite Group and serves on the Irish and Mauritian Boards of Directors. He is responsible for the growth of operational contracts, new initiatives, fleet rationalisation and renewal.
Slade qualified as a helicopter pilot from the South African Air Force (SAAF) in 1985, achieving first position overall on his course. During his 12 years of service in the SAAF, he completed several Specialist Training and Developmental Courses, including Management Development and Accident Investigation through the University of Southern California and Crew Resource Management Training through both South African Airways and the SAAF. His further military studies at the SAAF College included training in Junior Command Preparation, Junior Command and Staff courses, Air Crew Management, Specialist Night Operations courses and various additional military training courses. During Slade’s SAAF military career he served active duty, achieved military rank of Major and was the Puma Fleet Flight Commander at 15 Squadron.
Notably in 1991, Slade was awarded the Air Force Cross medal, for his active participation as a Puma Captain, in the multi-helicopter rescue of 600 passengers and crew from the stricken vessel the “Oceanos”. The Oceanos rescue is still classed as one of the most successful sea rescues of all time, with not a single loss of life, and the last passenger being rescued moments before the vessel sank.
Slade completed his Commercial Helicopter Licence in 1989, his Helicopter Airline Transport Licence and Helicopter Instructor Rating in 1994 and his Commercial Fixed Wing Licence with a Twin IFR rating in 1994. In 1994, Slade joined a local Durban helicopter company, NAC, as General Manager and Shareholder of the newly formed NAC Helicopters Unlimited. He created a helicopter division for the traditionally fixed-wing business, and grew NAC Helicopters Unlimited from scratch into a business of considerable repute, increasing the fleet to Slade Thomas 36 helicopters, carrying out offshore ship servicing, pilot training, charter services, fire-fighting and humanitarian relief contracts internationally. The business included a highly successful sales and
maintenance division. By 2003, Slade with his business partner assumed control of NAC Helicopters Unlimited in its entirety establishing the foundation of the Starlite Aviation Group.
Slade remains current on his flying licenses and time permitting continues to fly and instruct on the Company’s aircraft. Slade has extensive international flying and operational experience and has actively flown in numerous countries, including Afghanistan, Indonesia, the United States of America and various countries on the European and African continents.
Slade is dual licenced on both South African SACAA ATPL (License number O27O243579) and American FAA ATPL (License number 3594668). His ratings and qualifications include; instrument, night, winch/underslung, fire-fighting, CRM, safety and survival, night vision goggle (NVG) operations, HUET and he holds a GRII Helicopter Instructor’s rating. Slade has extensive multi-engine, heavy aircraft experience in remote austere locations on both offshore and onshore operations as well as special ops flying.
Flying for over 34 years, Slade has over 7000 flying hours, with instructor ratings on the following helicopter types; Sikorsky S92, Super Puma AS332, Puma SA330J, Alouette III, B407, B206L, B206, HU 500, HU 300, Robinson R66, R44 and R22, EC120 and B2 and B3 helicopters.