The oldest of four children, Andre Coetzee grew up in a small village south of Johannesburg called Henley-on-Klip and attended primary and secondary school in nearby Meyerton. Andre is married to Lonell and they have two daughters.
“I was particularly fortunate to be introduced to helicopter flying at a very young age (11). My Dad initiated his PPL(H) in 1983 and never stopped sharing a single moment of his love and awe of helicopter training with me. My own PPL training started at the age of 15 (Grade 9).”
Andre’s initial PPL training started at Helicopter Training Services (FAGC) and was completed at NAC Flight Training (FAGM).
After completing a BEng (Mechanical) degree at Rand Afrikaans University, Andre never worked a single day as a qualified engineer. Instead, he was afforded an opportunity by NAC Helicopter Maintenance to pursue an apprenticeship for which he says he will forever be grateful. During this time, he continued to complete his CPL(H), Instructor and Instrument Ratings while working as an apprentice and flying on a freelance basis.
“Henley Air was officially born in 1998 in a small hangar at Rand Airport and I’ve been involved ever since. My career yielded further flying qualifications (ATPL, Grade I Instructor and Designated Flight Examiner) as well as academic achievements (PhD and MBA) of which I am very proud,” says Andre. Since stepping down as CEO of Henley Air in 2021, Andre assumed the role of Executive Chairman of the Group of Companies and continues to fly actively.
When it comes to mentors, Andre has quite a list:
“My Dad, Johann, remains an incredible inspiration and source of friendship, knowledge, wisdom and ethics;
Buzz Bezuidenhout – helicopter instructor par excellence, and who taught and tested my Dad, myself, my brother and my wife. He continues to do so to this day;
The late Pete Viljoen: a remarkable man and instructor pilot who instilled a distinct love for helicopter technical appreciation in me, rather than just piloting prowess;
My pal and colleague, Boeta Dippenaar, who, despite his unmatched international sporting fame and subsequent flying abilities, instills a deep sense of compassion, reflection and honesty that keeps me very humble and grounded.”
“I have experienced terrific opportunities in my flying career, on many helicopter types and with many clients and friends. Every flight, every new helicopter type-conversion, every new mission serves to remind me what a fabulous career I’ve been afforded,” says Andre.
“The helicopter industry has been good to me, and I remain mindful that I owe the system. A particularly special moment for me was the launch of Henley Air’s own air ambulance service in July 2020. Rapid On-Call Emergency Transport (ROCKET) was born amidst the hard Covid lockdown restrictions and has thrived in an extremely competitive Emergency Medical Services environment. I am abundantly proud of our entire team, operating a 24-hour helicopter service across South Africa.”