Reminiscing about the mid-90s is an act of re-living the unpleasant memory of an economic tragedy that hugely impacted the world. Amy Duke’s family construction business in Thailand suffered an indirect impact as a result of the chaos. Her belief that ‘failure is not permanent; it is the courage to continue that matters,’ on the other hand, paved the way for a sustainable yet impeccable life. She relocated to the United Kingdom in an attempt to rekindle her entrepreneurial spirit. In this opportunistic land, she experienced a series of fortunate and unfortunate moments that shaped her journey and helped her lay the groundwork for the Manhattan Aviation Services business. Before serving as the CEO and MD for the Isle of Man-based aviation service provider, she also co-founded a Thai restaurant chain with her then-husband.
The path she created
Amy’s decision to move to the UK was a courageous one, a significant trait required from an entrepreneur. When she landed at London Heathrow Airport, she never expected her life would take a drastic turn and help her reach her current stature. In the UK, she found herself in an alien environment with a very loose grasp on the language and with no friends or family to support her. Her wits, passion, and decisiveness were the only qualities that she had, in addition to the £45 in her purse, which she borrowed from Thai people on the flight. She merely had an address for a Thai Restaurant called ‘Thai Siam Restaurant’ which is located in Leeds, and she took the train. But her destiny had a promising life for her on the Isle of Man, where a word-of-mouth opportunity was presented to her by the owner of the restaurant. The owner lends her some money to catch the train for the Isle of Man, where she was about to meet a Chef working in a Thai restaurant. Since then, her life has changed.
On the Isle of Man, Amy faced many challenges. There were difficult times when she struggled to meet a day’s meal. She spent weeks without food and became ill. Even then, she was blessed with the generosity presented to her. She feels grateful to the Thai student from Bradford University who helped her with food and medicine to cope with the illness—food poisoning. This situation led her to depart for London. At this point, Amy was struggling in the capital city to find a place to sleep. She recalls a memory when she spent hours on the bus because she had no place to go. She asked the driver whether she could stay and sleep on the bus, but due to certain policies, she was not allowed to spend the night after the bus lockout. She felt terrible, yet never lost hope. Amy found a shelter where she spent the night and was looking at the Thames River with many thoughts in her head. There she met a local Thai old lady who shielded her from the drunk men who were approaching her. Since that day, she spent two unforgettable years in London and decided to head back to the Isle of Man and marry Mr. Duke in the year 2000. The marriage only lasted for two years as her workaholic nature and passion for her dreams affected her relationship. Later, with little savings, she started her own business in hospitality, running a Thai restaurant called Amy’s Chiangmai Thai Restaurant, becoming the first Thai lady to run a Thai restaurant on the island at that time. The grand opening of her restaurant was on January 27, 2002, which got a very positive response. The business did well till 2003, but her fate changed when she competed against 199 individuals in a National Curry Competition in 2003. The North West Region event in Manchester was supported by the Isle of Man government, and they sent Amy to the competition on their behalf. She was supposed to be the winner at that competition, but due to the loss of ingredients, she secured second place with an appreciation for the brilliant taste of the food.
While running the restaurant, she met her second ex-husband, who brought her into the aviation industry, and they started operating Manhattan Aviation Services at the end of 2002 as a recruitment business. She recalls saying, “Starting up your own business, you must have skills, knowledge, and experience; all of those didn’t apply to me in running the Manhattan Aviation business.” A year later, with zero income whatsoever, she decided to focus on one business; therefore, she reached the junction of choosing between her two businesses. After careful consideration and building a good reputation for the Thai restaurant, she decided to leave the restaurant business and fully focus on the service-providing company.
In the year 2004, she and her second ex-husband changed their business from recruitment to the UK CAA Part 147 aircraft type training-approved organization, which was approved by the UK CAA. To gain approval, the organization must obtain certification, which includes a Form 4 post holder who has been promoted by the competent authority to hold this post as an accountable manager since the beginning of time. Moreover, the good help and support from BMI Regional Airlines, a company based in Aberdeen, Scotland, allowed Amy to access all facilities and classrooms, aircraft, and so on. She and her team built a good relationship with BMI Airlines, which allowed her to have access to a classroom, office, and flight simulator at London Heathrow and Aberdeen. In the year 2009, after re-launching the business in 2008 by His Royal Highness, The Duke of York. Though the year was challenging with a lot of change, moving the business back to the Isle of Man worked in favor of the company. The Isle of Man is a small, self-governing, beautiful country and well-known for its international road racing (the TT), which is considered one of the greatest motorcycle sporting events in the world. The Isle of Man is not part of the UK and is not in or part of the EU; therefore, Amy was obliged to apply for new approval from the EASA in order to change from the UK CAA to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). She was eager to learn technical information about EASA regulations, rules, and procedures for conducting EASA Part 147 type training, among other things. She believes that attending and dealing with all aspects of an audit is her best learning curve, with good help and support from her surveyor/competent authority.
She faced various challenges in her journey, but her sheer understanding and firm grit assisted in overcoming every difficult situation, including coping with a foreign language. She reckons that success is not accumulating monetary assets but making a difference in others’ lives. She has walked the path to become a successful business owner by offering online training to all engineers in order for them to stay current with new technology. It is probably the first organization to provide CT online training. With lots of demand for type training, it has expanded the business to meet customer needs and requirements. In 2012, it obtained GCAA (General Civil Aviation Authority) and JCARC (Jordanian Authority) approvals. Under the GCAA, Amy carried out the training manager’s function as well as that of the accountable manager and the CEO of the company. Later, she managed to allocate people to replace her with a training manager function so she could focus on her role as an accountable manager and the CEO or MD of Manhattan Aviation Services. Currently, Amy’s venture is in negotiation with an airline company to provide all training needs, including EASA Part 147 basic training and EASA Part 147 type rating training. It will continue to grow to expand business throughout the globe, especially in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It has planned to add additional aircraft types and helicopters such as the A350, B737 Max, Bell 412, 139, S76, S92, and A109 to its scope of approvals.
Amy realizes that life has never been a walk in the park for her; she may have had luck in business, but it failed her in their relationship. She got her second divorce in 2012 and has been single ever since. She forced all her energy into transforming her business to sustain it in the fluctuating market. Her enthusiasm, strong character, decisiveness, and hard work were the driving forces that propagated the company’s success. She feels grateful to every individual who has helped her at every turn in her life. Amy hopes that her life journey will inspire aspiring business leaders and encourage them to balance their lives with hard work, fighting, decisiveness, bravery, and other aspects.