Amy Duke, Managing Director & Accountable Manager at Manhattan Aviation, Most Aviation WomenLeaders of 2021 Profile

Amy Duke
Managing Director & Accountable Manager at Manhattan Aviation

Amy Duke, Managing Director & Accountable Manager at Manhattan Aviation, Most Aviation WomenLeaders of 2021

“How a Brave Thai Woman Transformed her life with £40”

Amy Duke’s story is no ordinary tale, and she has had to face numerous hardships to culminate into the pioneering leader she is today. Her story starts in Thailand, where she ran a construction business, having her own factory making bricks and building houses. But, in the mid-90s, the world had suffered badly during economic troubles and collapsed, Amy decided to leave her family and move to the UK (she had a notion that for the next six months she could work and save enough money to come back to Thailand and restart her business) but God had other plans for her.

On the flight, she got acquainted with a Thai family who couldn’t speak English and made a deal with them that if they lent her £45 to buy a train ticket to Leeds, then they could come with her. In the UK, she found herself in a different country, language, with no friends or family there to support, but she wasn’t the one to give up and armed with her determination and ability to work hard, she set out on her path towards success.

Amy’s friend had given her an address to check up on a friend, and after a struggle, she reached the place, whose chef directed her towards a Thai restaurant in the Isle of Man, where she worked for the next six months and returned to London. Many miracles happened that have profoundly influenced her life and leadership methodologies during this time. From the Bradford university student who helped Amy with medication to the friend who let her sleep under her roof, every single person whom Amy stumbled across has shaped her into becoming an influential woman.

Amy states, “My heartfelt thanks to the people who have helped me throughout my journey”.

But, Amy had yet so much more to face, where she had nowhere to go or sleep, and one night she found a spot near Thames River to sleep, but soon she was confronted by a group of drunk, unruly men. She ran towards an old Thai lady sitting near her, and she just walked with her for the rest of the way towards the light. That night Amy realized that she was destined to live in the UK and soon got married, but that did not stop her from pursuing her career. She worked hard day and night and tried to save up as much money she could to start a comfortable life, but because of her workaholic nature, her marriage ended, but that did not stop her from pursuing her goal. She had saved enough to start her business with a Thai restaurant, called Amy’s Chiangmai Thai Restaurant, and she became the first Thai lady who had established a successful business on the Isle of Man.

On 27th January 2002, the day of her restaurant’s grand opening, she saw a packed restaurant, which made her realize that she was accomplishing her dreams. She was leading a successful life, running a crowded restaurant, until she stumbled upon the opportunity to participate in a curry competition where more than 200 restaurants were invited. This exposure brought her to the limelight, and now she was soon becoming famous due to her recent win and the food that she was serving customers around the year. Amy’s Thai Restaurant was declared the winner of the National Curry Competition 2003, and she also achieved second place in the North West Region.

During this time, Amy met her second ex-husband, who introduced her to the Aviation industry. By the end of 2002, they had started operations in Manhattan as a recruitment business. “Starting up your own business means that you must have skills, knowledge, experience, all of which didn’t apply to me in running with Manhattan Aviation business,” says Amy. “After a year operating Manhattan, making zero income. My ex-husband and I were discussing that we cannot cope with two businesses at once, therefore we reached the point where we had to decide which business to keep and which to let go. After careful consideration, I reached a decision to leave the restaurant business after the completion of the curry of the year 2003 competition.”

Being a fighter with enthusiasm

In 2004 they changed their business from recruitment to the UK CAA Part 147 aircraft type training approved organization approved by the UK CAA. “To gain the approval the organisation must obtain certification including a Form 4 Post holder for which I have been promoted by the competent authority to hold this post as an accountable manager ever since to present day, and of course with the good help and support from BMI regional in Aberdeen allowing us to all access with all facilities and classrooms, access to the aircraft and so on.” This was a significant change, a massive jump for Amy to move from the kitchen to the airplane. In the beginning, Amy had no idea what they were talking about in the whole program because she now knew aircraft, engines, airframes, to name a few. But, she built a good relationship with BMI, who allowed her to have access to classroom, office, and flight simulator at London Heathrow and Aberdeen (now taken over by BA); during the first five years, her responsibilities to learn more and she was assisted in financial, accounts, attended aviation seminars, aviation conference, air show, and invigilator /examination work.

In 2009 after re-launching the business in 2008 by His Royal Highness, The Duke of York, the year was a challenging year with a significant change yet again, where she had to move back to the Isle of Man. The isle of man is a small self-governing, beautiful country that is not part of the UK and not in the EU; therefore, Amy needed to apply for new approval from the EASA direct to change from the UK CAA to European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This year was when she got herself to learn and gather knowledge about the technical expertise required, including maintaining compliance with EASA regulation, rules, procedures how to conduct EASA Part 147 type training, by attending and dealing with all the audits, this was the best learning experience for Amy where she gathered immense support and guidance from her surveyor/competent authority. “I’m originally from Thailand therefore English was not my first language, can you imagine how difficult it was for me to try to speak and understand something new that never been taught in my study. I have learnt it a very hard way from numerous mistakes. I turned it all into the opportunity to get myself to understand, without skills, knowledge or any kind of assistance.”

By this time, Amy knew she was walking the right path. This was a successful business. They were gaining momentum in offering Online Training to all engineers to keep them updated on new technology in the industry. When the CT online training demand increased, Amy expanded the business to meet customer needs and requirements. “In 2012 we gained the GCAA (the General Civil Aviation Authority) and JCARC (Jordanian authority) approvals. Under the GCAA I was given the role of Training manger as well as the Accountable manager and the CEO of the company,” elucidates Amy. “I worked tirelessly, juggling with many roles to cope and deal with those functions, but she strived to fulfill all of them.”

Being a fighter with enthusiasm, strong character, decisiveness, and a hardworking personality, nothing matters to Amy but only work that has driven her business and transformed the organization to be one of the most sought after. “During my business journey I have been confronted with many obstacles, and every obstacle is surmountable. I was lucky I got help and guidance on how to overcome from the right people who helped with all issues. I’m thankful for all of those obstacles thrown it on me so the more obstacles the great my learning curve.” Amy states, “My heartfelt thanks to the people who have helped me throughout my journey, I’m very grateful for all the help and guidance I have received from all of my surveyors who’s standing by me in all situations and many people I knew and in the industry who are behind my success.”

According to Amy, “being a boss, I am working closely with my people by understanding, helping, and guiding and working and showing them to the right direction to resolve all matters, out of work I am easy going and down to earth very friendly with everyone.” She plans to conduct six courses for the customer for the days to come, all classes to commence in the new year. She will also be concentrating on business planning and development where she will develop EASA Part 147 Basic training, expanding EASA Part 147 Type rating training business throughout the world such as Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Sri Lanka, to name a few countries. IEWL


Manhattan Aviation


Amy Duke
Managing Director & Accountable Manager
at Manhattan Aviation


Based on the Isle of Man (Isle of Man company number 106937C) we are a family run business that places an emphasis on personal service. We now have several aircraft types on our books and continue to add new courses. Manhattan Aviation is well placed to deliver to our customers. Our customers need to adapt to the ever changing market place, and inevitably this means training staff.

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