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 42-year career. He holds the record of being the countries longest continuous serving helicopter Chief Pilots and helicopter Chief Flying Instructors in Australia.
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.
Captain Cronin is a delegated Flight Testing Officer (1986-Current) 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.
As Managing Director and founding owner Captain Cronin has lead Kestrel on a sustainable development path to today being on of Australia’s most capable helicopter firefighting companies with a record of continuous innovation and leadership in the field. With over 27 years of contracted service to both National and State agencies Kestrel holds a privileged position in the industry. In January 2018 Kestrel Aviation became the first Australian owned helicopter company to obtain night firebombing trials approval in co-operation with CASA which moved to live fire in March 2018 in conjunction with Emergency Management Victoria and the Country Fire Authority. The successful outcome of these trials has now reached full maturity with Kestrel holding an unrestricted night firebombing approval from CASA.
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
- Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) Vice President
- Flight Crew Licensing Sub-committee as the AHIA industry representative
- Part 61 taskforce member representing the helicopter industry
Warren Blyth has 16 years’ experience in the aviation sector, as Group Operations Manager of the Field Air Group, Warren worked closely with Operations Mangers at various bases, Chief Pilot/Pilots and the Engineering Team to ensure personnel and equipment were well prepared for seasonal agricultural, fire suppression and oil slick control activities.
Warren has significant strategic and commercial business acumen and understands the importance of working with and leading a team to deliver safe and professional services.
Warren brings to Kestrel significant contract experience, having managed complex government and corporate contracts and working with various groups of stakeholders to deliver sustainable and successful project outcomes.
Warren spent time in Canada and was pivotal in establishing a strategic business alliance with Conair a Canadian based aerial firefighting business in providing Air Attack, Amphibious SEAT and Medium sized Airtankers into the Australian firefighting market.
Warren has also held positions with:
Melbourne Water (Agribusiness Manager) – Warren delivered a significant restructure to a large agricultural asset based in Western Victoria. This was a complex commercial and legal negotiation resulting in a Public/Private Partnership resulting in a long term lease agreement between both parties. Warren managed the financial, operational and personnel transition of the business to the private sector partner. This project was delivered on-time and within budget.
Meridian Agriculture (Business Manager and Senior Business Advisor) – Meridian Agriculture is one of Australia’s leading agricultural consulting firms and has been providing services to the private, public and corporate sector for over thirty years. Warren held the position as Business Manager and consulted to private and corporate clients primarily in strategic planning and business management.
Warren holds qualifications from:
- Monash University – Graduate Diploma of Agribusiness Management
- Melbourne University (Melbourne Business School) – Leadership Development Program
Warren also holds a PPL (Fixed-Wing)
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 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.
Captain Richard Butterworth
Head of Training/ Chief Pilot NVIS
Captain Butterworth joined Kestrel in 2017 undertaking the role of Head of Training, including the Night Vision Systems Chief Pilot’s delegation.
Captain Butterworth’s flying career began in 1996 with the Australian Defence Force as both a pilot and instructor. During this time, he saw service in Bougainville in support of Peace Keeping Operations and was a member of the Joint Incident Response Unit for the Sydney Olympic Games. In 2004 Captain Butterworth joined the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter project as a flight and tactical instructor and was part of the integration and training team supporting the ADF.
In 2009 Captain Butterworth moved to Australian Helicopters as a line pilot in South Australia conducting HEMS, Law Enforcement and Fire Support operations. This role evolved into helicopter type, NVIS and instrument check and training positions, culminating as the Flight Training Manager for Babcock Onshore operations. In 2014, he was the AW139 production acceptance pilot and fleet manager in support of Ambulance Victoria contract operations.
Captain Butterworth is an experienced flight instructor and examiner across a range of advanced flight regimes, in particular night vision systems, instrument flight and simulation. In addition, he holds a Bachelor Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Sydney.
Captain Butterworth’s qualifications include:
- Air Transport Pilot Licence
- Instrument Rating with 17 renewals
- Flight Instructor – Grade 1
- Flight Examiner – Instrument flight and NVIS
- Fight Safety Management and Investigation
- Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering
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.
Head of Aircraft Airworthiness Maintenance Control
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.
Operations Officer and Logistics Manager
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.