Hill over the moon

Elite Aviation CEO Alaena Hill after receiving the AOC from CAAF’s Captain John Slater. Picture: SUPPLIED

FIJI now has its first female-owned aviation company.

Alaena Hill, who is also the chief executive officer of Nadi-based Elite Aviation, said she was over the moon when the helicopter start-up she put together with her team was finally given its wings.

The company was granted its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) on May 30, a huge achievement for the brand new service provider.

In a male-dominated industry, the CEO said getting the airline off the ground had been a mammoth task — six years in the making.

“We’re happy, relieved, excited and every other emotion under the sun you can imagine after receiving our AOC,” she said.

“We all collectively worked as a team and made huge sacrifices including time away from family to bring this home.

“It took us just a little over three years to attain our AOC, with an additional three years before that of doing our due diligence and studying the market — that’s where we saw our opening and that started the wheels turning to trying to attain our AOC.”

Elite Aviation CEO Alaena Hill after receiving the AOC from CAAF’s Captain John Slater. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ms Hill said bringing in the first 13-seater Bell 212 helicopters was a huge challenge.

“I had to jump through some extra hoops and met some cactuses along the way in the desert because I’m a female.

“But it didn’t take away from the outcome. If anything, it added and motivated me and made the victory just a little bit sweeter.”

Ms Hill said choosing the Bell 212 was a no-brainer because of its safety record and ability to adapt to any situation.

“Because of the versatility of the Bell 212 and the experience we have behind the helm, there’s really not much we can’t do.

“We can go from a tourist operator doing transfers, tours and sightseeing to 20 minutes later configuring it to being a search and rescue or emergency medical service chopper.

“The machines are so robust, we can help with relief efforts or assist fire emergency crews by scooping water from the sea and helping them combat fires.

“We can help construction companies as we have concrete buckets for situations where they want wet concrete mixed, delivered and poured to a specific location.

“The Bell 212 have a lifting capability of up to 1.5 tonnes that’s why we chose these powerhouse machines — for their versatility, capacity, load durability and safety record.”

Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji acting chief executive officer Ajai Kumar confirmed Elite Aviation was the first local company to operate Bell 212 helicopters in Fiji.

“They are the first of type in Fiji to be awarded an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), Bell 212s have operated here in the past but under an exemption keeping their foreign registration number,” he said.