Highly skilled and qualified team

Led by Kestrel founder and Managing Director, Captain Ray Cronin, Kestrel’s team comprises a number of Australia’s most highly skilled and qualified aviators. Their backgrounds include charter and executive transport, airline operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue, offshore and military service. Senior crews provide the newer crews with the benefit of their extensive aviation experience, passing on valuable knowledge and skills.

Captain Ray Cronin

Founder and Managing Director/Chief Flying Instructor (Helicopters)

Captain Cronin is one of Australia’s most experienced helicopter pilots and instructors. He also has extensive experience in the general aviation industry and has logged over 10,000 flying hours throughout his 33-year career.

Captain Cronin has had first hand involvement in pilot training syllabus development to all licence and rating levels, and has been an adviser to the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) on safety and training issues. The instructor and check and training pilot refresher courses initiated and presented by Captain Cronin have received recognition from CASA for consistently producing above average results in pilot licence training.

In recent years, Captain Cronin’s business activities have extended to include aviation consulting and auditing services to the aviation providers for Australian and overseas resource companies.

Captain Cronin is a nominated Flight Testing Officer for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia. In this role he has flight testing approval for all flight crew licences and rating for both aeroplanes and helicopters. He currently holds the highest qualification available in Australia for CASA.

Captain Cronin also holds a diploma in Air Traffic Services, achieved through his services to the CASA in the late seventies.

Captain Cronin’s flying experience ranges from flying single piston engine helicopters and aeroplanes through to multi engine instrument flying in both jet aeroplanes and helicopters.

Service to Industry:

  • Foundation member of Aviation Safety Foundation of Australia (ASFA)
  • Helicopter representative for “Flight Training Panel” (Appointed by CASA-CEO)
  • Industry consultant for development of the new ‘Helicopter flight training syllabus’
  • Industry consultant for helicopter flight test standards CASA
  • Industry representative for the development of the ‘Flight Testing Office’ CASA
  • Developed the ‘Helicopter flight instructor’s manual’ in conjunction with CASA
  • Initiated, produced and presented two Chief Flying instructors’ conferences funded by CASA
  • Served in numerous other safety committees
  • Developed and produced an aviation standard for Western Mining
  • Developed and produced an aviation standard for cattle stations operated by BHP Billiton
  • Filmed by ‘ABC’ in a 30 minute documentary about Kestrel’s extraordinary training programs
  • Flight Safety Foundation
  • Helicopter Advisory Group Member (current)
  • Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) Vice President
  • Flight Crew Licensing Sub-committee as the AHIA industry representative

Captain David Sewell

Chief Pilot/Lead Fire Pilot/Grade Two Instructor


Captain Sewell joined Kestrel in 2007, bringing 25 years of aviation industry experience and 6000 hours of helicopter time, including 4000 hours of multi engine rotary.

As Kestrel’s lead fire pilot, Captain Sewell has led major rural firefighting campaigns in Victoria, NSW and ACT, including Victoria’s notorious Black Saturday fires, and a number of urban firefighting campaigns in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. He also has spent time firefighting in Canada, flying Bell 212’s in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and in PNG.

Before joining Kestrel, Captain Sewell was Chief Pilot for Helicopters Victoria, owned by the Grollo family, for fourteen years. In that role he operated three aircraft predominately in the alpine regions of Victoria and NSW and was involved in multiple search and rescue missions in Victoria, including being awarded the US Coast Guard award for participating in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race rescues. He also managed offshore support to ship, fixed and floating platforms in Bass Strait.

Captain Sewell’s qualifications include:

  • Air Transport Helicopter Pilots license
  • Command Instrument rating with 10 renewals.
  • Helicopter Instructor with Multi Engine Training approval granted in 1995. Approved for ground and flight instruction on the IFR Simulator, Rappel and Winch training (Pilots and Aircrew ), HUET and the ‘in house’ Wire Avoidance Course.
  • Certificates in RMIT – Aircraft Design and Manufacture
  • International Safety Institute – Helicopter Safety Management
  • National Emergency Medal for sustained service during the Victorian Bushfires 2009


Bruce Connors

Chief Engineer

Bruce Connors has extensive aviation engineering experience and qualifications and has been the Chief Engineer for Kestrel since 2011.

Before joining Kestrel Bruce spent 10 years with Qantas, where he supervised the heavy maintenance of rotary and fixed wing civilian and military aircraft throughout Australia and Asia, including the Australian Prime Minister’s Boeing business jets. He was also responsible for re-establishing a hangar for heavy maintenance and major modifications, including the position of Technical Lead for planning and production.

Previously he held number of supervisory roles with Ansett Airlines and the Government Aircraft Factory at Avalon, Victoria. At GAF he supervised the establishment of a heavy maintenance hangar, while at Ansett he was involved in heavy and line maintenance on the airline fleet that included several S61 helicopters.

Bruce commenced his career in aviation engineering with the Royal Australian Navy in 1977, where he spent eleven years predominantly working on the Sikorsky S61 on land and at sea in general service including search and rescue roles.

Bruce’s additional qualifications include Certificate Four in Training and Assessment, Certificate Four in Safety Leadership and extensive licensing groups for both aeroplanes and helicopters.

Eleanor Cronin

Business Manager/Director


Eleanor has over twenty years experience in the aviation industry and has played a pivotal role in the development of Kestrel over that time. Her fluent Japanese linquistic capabilities enabled the company to develop strong contractual ties with Japanese companies, with over 500 Japanese pilots credited for training at Kestrel.

Eleanor oversees the financial and daily office operations including planning and future development. She also directs Kestrel’s quality management systems and oversees the accreditation of education programs with state and national education agencies.

Eleanor has flown solo in both aeroplanes and helicopters but now devotes her energies to ensuring that Kestrel has the management and administrative support required to achieve its goals.


Shirley Woods

Head of Aircraft Airworthiness Maintenance Control

Shirley is a vital member of the maintenance and airworthiness management team at Kestrel.

Over many years of service with the company Shirley has acquired an intimate knowledge of the fleets operational status. This includes management of the stores and parts procurement to maintain an efficient flow of components essential to the serviceability of the aircraft.

Shirley’s valuable contribution to the daily running of the maintenance at Kestrel is noticed and appreciated by all.

Prue Hateley

Operations Officer and Logistics Manager

Prue joined Kestrel in 2012 and has been involved in the development of Kestrel’s operations center since its inception for the 2013/2014 fire season.

The role of the Operations officer is to maintain a high level of situational awareness of the company’s fleet and personnel movements and to provide logistics support where necessary.

This is a demanding task through peak events during the fire season and other emergency response tasks. Prue is well known and respected by Kestrel’s clients and crews who benefit from her attention to detail.