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Phil Clark

When I left my job as art director seven years ago to fly model helicopters in Thailand taking pictures, my colleagues thought I was crazy.

January 2010

What first bought you to Phuket?
I came here just over ten years ago in 1997 almost by chance.

Where are you from; why did you decide to move here?
Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. I came here seven years ago for the climate and great lifestyle.

Did you plan to set up a business?
Yes I came here to set up Helicam.

Tell us about your job.
I get involved in everything from business to creative, working as part of our team. I do enjoy the flying side – but only when there's not too much pressure.

How did you get into helicopters and photography?
For a school science project I fitted a camera to my model plane and took some aerial photos of the school. They came out well, and I achieved a grade 'A' for the project. Ever since I've been fascinated with aerial photography and aircraft.

Have you ever lost a helicopter?
Yes a few – even into the sea as many of our clients need aerial photos offshore.

What's your most memorable shoot?
Aerial filming for a series of sci-fi movies about killer ants filmed in Krabi. We actually took part in one of the movies too! I got to meet the American movie star, Tom Lopat, from the original Dukes of Hazard.

What's your worst experience with the helicopters?
Losing them! When we lose one in the ocean it costs us up to 400,000 Baht.

How many helicopters do you have?
We've got seven helicopters, gasoline and electric, and two fixed wing airplanes. We use the helicopters mostly to photograph properties; they have a maximum ceiling of around 150m. Our newest helicopter is fitted with a full auto pilot system – allowing it to fly very steadily using GPS. The fixed wing airplanes can go higher and are good to shoot an entire town or city.

What's your main target market?
In the past mostly developers, real estate and hotels. We're now moving into new areas and new clientele.

What's your business 'motto'?
Believe in what you’re doing, work hard – and you'll succeed.

What do you see as your biggest success?
Many of our clients re-book our services time after time.

Who has most influenced you?
A creative director from a company I worked for in Dubai. He inspired me to think laterally and enjoy whatever project I was involved in.

Do you mostly work in Phuket?
Many of our jobs are in Phuket but we also work around the rest of Thailand and Malaysia.

How often you do visit England?
Never! My family and friends are all here.

Where do you live and why?
Chalong. It has a good expat community without the 'in your face' tourism.

Did you buy your house?
I've have just had one built and almost ready to move into. My extended family helped me to secure a form of ownership.

What areas of Phuket are your favourites? Why?
I enjoy many of the beaches and lakes around Phuket. The environment here is good for outdoor activities and family fun.

What do you like and dislike about living in Phuket?
I do enjoy the peace and freedom here, but worry about some of the bad driving habits.

How could Phuket be improved?
Deal with the oversupply of tuk-tuks in tourist areas and bring in a regular 'baht bus' service like Pattaya. Police could enforce correct usage for Zebra crossings and traffic lights. Tuk-tuks and taxis should all be metered. Also invest in proper infrastructure such as underground services and good internet – 3G etc.

Do you think Phuket is over-developed?
Yes, but the whole world is changing and we can’t stop that. But we can try to help it change for the better.

Tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm 39 and happily married for more than 10 years. My wife is from the Philippines and we have two boys aged eight and three years old, who go to Thai School and will integrate with the Thai system. We're hoping for them to become Thai citizens one day to secure a future here.

How do you divide your time between work and leisure?
I don’t have the luxury of deciding whether to work or play. In this climate work comes first.

What do you do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?
My hobby was flying model aircraft, but that's now my work. Most of the free time I have is spent with my family; we go to the beach, go cycling or just visit Grandma & Grandad here in Chalong. Occasionally I find time to go out for a beer with friends and I have been to some amazing parties here – many organised by property companies and, of course, the Six Senses Phuket Raceweek parties are very special.

Are you involved in any local charities or clubs?
I've just finished making a promotional video for the Phuket Sunshine Village to help create awareness for future donations and support.

For more information contact: Helicam
Mobile: +66 (0)89 874 7464, +66 (0)87 281 0451. Website: www.helicam.asia

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