For those who don't yet know you, can you give us a brief personal introduction?
I was born in Johannesburg, with one brother, and have lived in South Africa my entire life. I have a marketing degree and I qualified as a commercial pilot which ultimately lead me to starting United Charter Services in 2000. This in turn led to diversification of the organisation and the formation of the United Aviation group.
Tell us more about United Aviation Group?
We have a number of sub-brands under the umbrella including OwenAir - which just celebrated its 75th birthday - and is a well-known name in the private charter and aviation industry. Our other brands include United Aircraft Sales, United Aircraft Maintenance – which includes our amazing hangar based at Lanseria International Airport (where one of our Derby Party’s will be held), United Flight Support, United Maverick (our luxury, larger than life annually produced book), our Air Ambulance division, our Cargo division and so forth. We are continuously growing and one of the hallmarks of United is that we continuously extend ourselves, see what our clients need and strive to serve those needs, so there’s no such thing as being satisfied with the status quo. It’s a continuous sprint to the next goal, which is very satisfying, as we do tend to achieve them.
As an industry, we're incredibly grateful for your support, have you always been involved in the equestrian industry or had an interested in horses?
I have been riding since I was a child and used to hang out with my grandfather at Carlswald stables, galloping about on the ponies with my friends while he dozed off under the bluegums. I currently have seven horses - the oldest one is Brave Heart who I bought from Ed Simpson’s estate. Then I have two more retired horses happily enjoying their time in the paddock, Desert Rush, who was an amazing, if a little crazy, thoroughbred mare, and Rosie – her stable name - who unfortunately had to retire young due to a rare iliac thrombosis.
Currently, my working horses are Lady, who helped me get back in the saddle after an extended period of not actively riding, Callaho Confidant who is a very promising up and coming young horse, Seeis Morning Star who is proving exceptionally talented and currently jumping 1m10 and Capital Houston who is a fantastic 1m20 horse who has loads of potential and the heart and will of a saint.
I ride several of the horses myself, Dan (Confidant), Lady, and Houston, and Morning star is ridden by Jaco De Lange who also assists me exercising and training the horses during the week.
What was your motivation for sponsoring the SA Derby?
Like private flying, which is the most exclusive part of aviation, the SA Derby is one the most prestigious and exclusive events on the equestrian calendar, and it is something people always look forward to every year. On this basis alone, I believed it was a perfect fit.
Additionally of course, there is an opportunity to expose the equestrian community to the experience of flying privately and to whom we can provide a great quality service. Personally, SA Derby has been an event I have loved since I was a child – all riders do – and the opportunity to give back to the field which has given me so much personally was one I couldn’t pass up.
Is there any SA Derby horse (past or present) who you would have loved to have owned or ridden?
So many! I mean how often have we all stood on the side and looked at these brave, beautiful horses and thought of riding them? One of the first Derby greats I fell in love with was Gonda’s Watchfire. He was so majestic, handled the course with such grace and ease - it was a joy to watch him complete a course. Another horse I loved watching as a kid was Peter Gotz’s Noble Cut. I rode a Noble Chieftain at the time so felt a kinship with him obviously, but his heart and pure joy at getting out onto the competitive field was inspiring and reminded us all that sure winning was great, but it’s also about the connection between horse and rider, the fun, the love and the trust.
Equestrian aspirations/goals for 2021?
None of my horses will compete in the SA Derby this year but I believe several of the younger horses have the potential to do so and could be in one of the near future Derby events. I strongly believe several of the horses will compete in the open classes successfully in the next 12 to 24 months, so we will be working on that.
How do you define success?
Success is such an intensely personal thing. What’s success for me, could be torture for you. It’s also a moving target, so as we achieve, we set new goals, does that make us successful, or just successful at that goal?
If you didn’t sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Honestly it’s been so long since I’ve had extra time I wouldn’t know. But probably spend it at the yard with my horses.
Advice you’d offer to the participants of the 2021 UAG SA Derby?
Enjoy every moment of this year’s event. If the last 24 months of craziness has taught us nothing else, it’s shown that everything can change in a second - and nothing is guaranteed. The course is amazing, as it is every year. There are just enough new surprises in the new jump designs we’ve brought in to keep it interesting for the old hands, and for those who are competing for the first time, all we can say is good luck! Have fun! And don’t forget why we are all here. For the love of the horses, the love of the sport!
1. Mare or Gelding?
2. Beach or Snow?
3. Most used emoji?
Beer / Champagne Glasses
4. Book or movie?
5. Sweet or Savoury?
6. Current favourite song?
Wonderland by Anson Seabra (keep an eye on our social media pages for our new promo adverts)
7. Tea or coffee?
8. Hidden Talent?
Can't say or it won't be hidden any longer!
To find out more about the United Aviation Group, visit:
To find our more about the UAG SA Derby, visit:
Image credit: Ingrid Alice Photography