When flying is a family affair

Published: 06 Jul 2015

WW Jannie de Klerk - WW 20150706

Jannie de Klerk is international operations manager for National Airways Corporation, providing charter, sales and leased fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft from Pretoria – and sometimes dealing with unhelpful authorities.

How did you get started?

Both my mother and my father were pilots so it was the obvious thing to do. I always tell people that aviation is a way of life, not just a job. A person needs to live aviation, not just work in it. I have gone full circle on the training as far as ICAO safety and all the usual goes, but successful operations is mostly something you learn by experience. The best training I ever got came from the people I have worked with
over the years and I continue to learn on a daily basis.

Where have you worked?

My first aviation job was as an operations manager in 1991 for two companies simultaneously: Avia Air Charter and Tropair Charter, based at Wonderboom airport outside Pretoria, South Africa. Tropair Charter specialised in flying charters in southern Africa for the tourist and corporate industries, while Avia Air Charter specialised in contract work, operating a large fleet of aircraft in Africa, including Douglas DC-3 Dakota turboprops, McDonnell Douglas DC-6s and Bombardier Learjets.

From this I moved on to Debonair Tours as operations manager, operating DC-3 aircraft for the tourist and corporate industry in southern Africa, based out of Lanseria airport, Johannesburg. In 1997 I got involved in a new start-up charter business known as Naturelink Aviation. In 2010 Naturelink Aviation was sold to National Airways Corporation, one of the largest general aviation companies in Africa.

I am currently the manager of international operations on the leasing side of the business within National Airways.

What is your company’s mission? 

We specialise in offering aviation solutions to our clients, including new and used aircraft sales, as well as leasing and charters of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.Our fixed-wing fleet consists of King Air series, Beechcraft 1900, Embraer EMB-120, and ERJ-145 and Hawker-series aircraft, throughout Africa and the Middle East. Our clients include the UN and the oil, gas and mining industries, as well as many
corporate and commercial clients.Management of the international leasing fleet throughout Africa and the Middle East is my responsibility.

What do you focus on?

Getting more of our aircraft deployed into Africa and the Middle East for various missions. We face challenges on a daily basis in this business as we’re dealing with different countries with different regulations and cultures.

Are authorities overly restrictive?

Dealing with incompetent authorities in the industry complicates the simplest of things. In Africa the authorities tend to think they serve purely a policing function and forget they are also there to help solve issues in the best interest of their customers, which are the operators. Dealing with authorities all over the globe on a regular basis, I believe this attitude seems to be a lot worse in Africa and is causing the industry to grow a lot more slowly than in other parts of the world.

In Africa, for some reason, each authority has its own interpretations, and even within the same country the opinions of inspectors differ. Most people have the wrong opinion on how aviation is governed and do not realise that this is one of the most governed industries in the world. Companies such as National Airways Corporation pride themselves on having some of the highest accreditations in the industry and spend millions every year on continuous improvement to be a step ahead of our competitors.

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