Vivian Velez flying high
Carlo Orosa (The Philippine Star) - September 4, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Vivian Velez has been in the silver screen for decades, and even with her success in the entertainment industry, she never quits thinking of how to better herself and the lives of others. 

Lately, she has taken an advocacy in aviation. To be exact, Vivian is finding ways on how to make Philippine skies safer for everyone by introducing newer methods and bringing in equipment to set the safety bar higher in training new flight school students.

Early last year, she helped form The Aviation Hub-Philippines and Asia-Pacific with long-time friend and US-based business partner, Ed Totanes. Together, they were able to bring Tecnam Costruzioni Aeronautiche of Italy, a renowned 66-year-old company considered as pioneer and leader in light aircraft manufacturing, to the Philippines.

We asked Vivian about her advocacy and the impact of aviation in her life:

Why aviation?

“Aviation is a dynamic business and everyone seemed to be interested in it. They just don’t know how they can get close to it. Aviation almost touches everyone’s life, but more should benefit from it.”

How did you get yourself involved in aviation?

“When Secretary (Jesse) Robredo was killed in a freaky airplane accident in August of 2012, many were questioning why something like this could happen to someone so special and important? My friends and I started asking ourselves… If it can happen to him, what about us? What about the ‘regular’ Juan dela Cruz? Are there measures we can take to prevent such from happening again? That was the start of a long list of things I wanted answered.”

Then what happened next?

“I contacted a long-time pal who I knew was into aviation consultancy, sales and acquisition, based in the US, Ed Totanes, and he started asking me questions about the current aviation climate. Together, we decided it was worth looking into. When he finally came in February 2013, that was the start of Aviation Hub as we know it today.”

What is Aviation Hub and what does it represent?

“Aviation Hub’s purpose is very comprehensive and as dynamic as aviation. Our first criterion is making safety a priority. We are only bringing in equipment that can further advance safety of everyone. Secondly, expanding and bettering grassroots aviation so that everyone can be involved in it. Currently, there is only one type of pilot in the Philippines… Commercial pilots and a very small number of enthusiasts and hobbyists. Nothing against commercial aviation, but worldwide, the ‘true’ aviators are the hobbyists and enthusiasts. They invest countless hours researching, knowing, flying, etc. putting them back into aviation. Most commercial aviators, or the professionals as they say it, look at flying simply as a job. They fly, then, they go home.”

How can aviation and your acting career merge?

“Surprisingly easy. I use my influence as a public figure meeting and greeting people in the ‘know’ chain of command promoting our safety advocacy, while inviting fellow actors to join in aviation advocacy as well. In fact, many of them have already expressed their desire to learn to fly in the near future.”

For example, why would Jake Cuenca or Piolo Pascual, or Cesar Montano want to learn how to fly?

“Because it is an exciting endeavor. Secondly, it can create a transportation option for them in the future, given the right and safer equipment, that is. Lastly, we will need their voice in advancing our advocacies.”

Where is Aviation Hub based in?

“Aviation Hub is based in Metro Manila. However, our partner service center, World Citi Colleges-Aviation (WCC) is based in Manila and Pangasinan. They have their own airfield inside the WCC campus compound over there.”

Tell us about the airplanes you use?

“We are the master dealer for Tecnam in the country. As such, we identify, choose and designate service centers and sub-dealers in the country. The banner aircraft is the Rotax powered, automotive fuel using twin-engine aircraft, the P2006T. It is a four-seater aircraft that uses automotive fuel of 91+ octane. This can significantly cut the cost of training for pilots. To increase proficiency and safety, one must build time and hours. If the cost is too cost-prohibitive, then, safety suffers, too.

“Along with the twin-engine aircraft, we have a long list of single engine airplanes in the two- to four-seat variety. Tecnam has over 30 models to choose from.

“Lastly, Tecnam is in the process of building a replacement for the aging fleet of inter-island airplanes used by many regional airlines today. The 11-seat aircraft, dubbed at the Traveler, also uses automotive fuel and can land at undeveloped runways. This will be a game-changing aircraft for the travel industry in the Philippines and around the world.”

Other than airplanes, what does Aviation Hub do?

“Safety first, everyone else comes in second. In the second echelons are aircraft manufacturing, employment and research and development. The world is moving very fast. Currently, first world countries are already moving from terrestrial to space in business and technology. In order to get to space, one must move through aviation first. In order to get into advanced aviation, one must possess grassroots aviation, and that we do not have in the Philippines.”

How can we move in that direction?

“Aviation Hub is creating and advancing grassroots flying in the country. Flying clubs and other similar groups can be formed all around the country today where anyone interested in flying and aviation can mingle and talk about it. These groups, composed mainly of professionals from other industries, can bring in knowledge from their respective professions that can also be applied into aviation. It’s that simple! Working smarter, not harder, so to speak.”

What’s next for you in showbiz?

“I take acting assignments from time to time, here and there; I am very choosy with the projects they offer me. I don’t usually jump at the first, second or, even third offers. I screen them very carefully. When I take a project, it would have to be something I feel strongly about.

“In aviation, this is just the tip of many other aviation-related advocacies in the future. We just don’t want to talk about these advocacies, we want to see them come through and done. That is the part we will have to roll our sleeves and get to work.”

AIRCRAFT AVIATION AVIATION HUB AVIATION HUB-PHILIPPINES AND ASIA-PACIFIC CESAR MONTANO ED TOTANES HUB TECNAM
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