Gary Renault – Chief Executive Officer and Director
Gary Renault is the Chief Executive Officer at Grand Central Airport as well as a Director.
Gary joined Grand Central as Airport Manager in April 2009 and was recently promoted to CEO and Director.
Gary worked on the commercial side of the aviation industry for many years. His seven-year tenure at Comair Limited saw him involved in the ground operations and airlines industry before he joined Grand Central Airport.
Former President of the Airports and Aerodromes Association of SA (2012-2014) and existing board member of the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (CAASA), Gary holds a wealth of knowledge and experience about the aviation industry in South Africa.
Grand Central places a strong emphasis on encouraging young people to get involved in the aviation industry. “The many flight schools based here are a testament to this,” says Gary. “Although South Africa’s civil aviation industry has experienced exponential growth over the past 20 years, more young people need to be trained as pilots if South Africa is to keep up with its growing aviation industry. The industry is also in desperate need of engineers.”
“We welcome the opportunity to touch these young lives and hopefully foster an interest in the aviation industry at the same time,” Gary explains.
Sarah Thepa – Airport Manager
Sarah Thepa is the Airport Manager at Grand Central Airport.
Having been with Grand Central for over 20 years, Sarah is the glue that holds the airport together. Nothing happens in and around the terminal building that she doesn’t know about. Sarah started out working as a junior receptionist for the airport at the age of 21 and has risen with grace through the ranks of this predominantly male oriented industry to where she is today.
When you ask Sarah what it is that makes the airport special she will tell you it’s the welcoming atmosphere that greets you as you walk in through its doors, the feeling that you have come home and that you belong. This is an atmosphere that Sarah is passionate about fostering because this is how she felt from the very first time she set foot in the airport as a child when her father brought her to look at the airplanes.
“I would love for all young children to share the passion and excitement I felt for aviation as a child,” Sarah says. “For this reason I am delighted that we can be part of an initiative that exposes children to the aviation industry.”
Tiaan Joseph – Assistant Airport Manager
Tiaan Joseph is the Assistant Airport Manager at Grand Central Airport.
Tiaan’s career started 25 years ago when he joined the City of Tshwane
(then Pretoria) Fire Department. This is where his passion for fire safety
was born. Tiaan spent many years working as an Emergency Fire
Instructor passing his knowledge and experience on to aspiring young
Tiaan spent 5 years as Company Commander in their Fire Department of
Wonderboom Airport before being recruited as Fire Chief and Fuel Bay
Manager for Grand Central Airport in July 2015. Tiaan very quickly became a valued member of the
Grand Central team and in January 2016 he was promoted to Assistant Airport Manager.
Tiaan is a dedicated family man and equally dedicated to developing the youth of today. “I believe
that children are the future of our country and that we should do anything we can to help develop
them,” he says.
Chris Leibbrandt – Operations and Aviation Security Manager
Chris Leibbrandt is the Operations and Aviation Security Manager at
Grand Central Airport, overseeing the smooth running of the airport
operations on a day to day basis and ensuring that the security
procedures of this general aviation airport are adhered to.
Chris has been with Grand Central Airport for 3 years prior to which
he worked on the Operations side of the parking industry for 8 years.
“As a child I dearly wanted to experience the thrill of flying but this
was not something that we could afford and I had no exposure to the aviation industry,” says Chris.
Today, working in the industry, Chris feels a childlike excitement every day as he gets to work in the
buzz and excitement of the busy airfield.
“All dreams start with an experience and this is the ultimate experience of flying that these young
children will be exposed to.” Chris says. “I am thrilled that I can play a part in their adventure.”
Lindi Spezialetti – Senior Administrator and Marketing Assistant
Lindi Spezialetti is the Senior Administrator and Marketing Assistant at
Grand Central Airport.
After working in the administrative, PR and marketing arena for over 10
years, Lindi joined Grand Central Airport in 2015 to assist Gary and Sarah on
the administration and communication side of the business.
Having previously focussed on the fields of recycling, technology, education and early childhood
development Lindi finds the aviation industry to be a refreshing and exciting new avenue to work in
and takes great pleasure in building a positive reputation for the small boutique airport she has
come to love.
“This airport has a wonderful history and has touched so many lives,” says Lindi. “Many senior
visitors passing through here reminisce about their young days spent flying at Grand Central or
working on the airfield while the young children that visit the airport today watch the airport
operations in awe and possibly even dream about becoming part of it all.”
“It is wonderful to think that the Children’s Flight will give young children a remarkable memory to
take with them for the rest of their lives and maybe one day they will return and re-tell their stories
about Grand Central Airport,” she says.
Grand Central Airport – a potted history Ray Watts
Grand Central airport is situated in Midrand, Gauteng and has been around since 1937. The airport was started by some car racing enthusiasts who used to race at the old race track that can still be seen to the west of the airfield. Quite a few of these people were not only racing enthusiasts but also owned their own aircraft and wanted to keep them close together. The field was bought by a Mr. Harry Shires and then further developed with hangars etc being built. Initially the airfield was simply a square grass field where one simply took off and landed into wind – there were no runways as such.
After WWII Mr. Shires formed a company called African Flying Services – a charter and sales company and the airfield really entered the commercial era. In 1964 the airfield ran into financial problems and nearly closed down however Dr Michael Finn (he of Penguin Pools fame) bought the airfield and it was saved. He eventually sold the airfield to its current owners in 1991 when he and his family emigrated to the USA and it has continued to go from strength to strength to where it is now.
My involvement with the airfield began in 1974 when I became the ATC there. I ran the Aerodrome Flight Information Service all by myself for a long while – that was a seven day a week job from 6am to 6pm. I was also the fireman, in charge of seeing that the runway lights were all working and making sure the fuel bay had fuel and was operating properly. I left there in 1981 to pursue other avenues but have never forgotten my time spent there.
The pictures with this short article were taken in 1975.