By Rukaya Mosavel
A group of teenagers have achieved what many thought would be impossible – built their own aircraft and embarked on a trip from Cape to Cairo. After a strenuous month-long journey across the continent, the crew finally landed in Egypt on Monday. The four-seater Sling 4 plane landed in Namibia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, Tanzania and Uganda during the 12 000km trip to Egypt.
This dynamic group of learners come from different backgrounds with no previous experience in aviation. Under the guidance of The Airplane Factory, U-Dream Global mentors and five team leaders from Denel Aviation, the teens assembled the aircraft in just two weeks. The project is an aviation outreach programme that fosters innovative and visionary young people who want to pursue a dream in aviation.
A project member of U-Dream Global, Keamogetswe Seemala said the project kicked off last year when U-Dream Global founder Megan Werner went to schools around Hout Bay and invited students to submit a minute-long video about why they wanted to be a part of the aviation programme.
“We received thousands of videos and from that, they chose 400. Then we were invited to a selection day and then we did activities where they judged us, assessed if we can work in teams and work under pressure,” said Seemala.
“Why I wanted to be part of the team is because I want to try something new. I want to see what’s out there. What I can put into the team is my positivity and I can motivate and push them to work harder,” said Seemala.
Becoming a part of the team felt like home away from home.
“I’ve made life-long relationships,” Seemala added.
The aircraft was a kit that the team assembled together. Seemala said the four-seater aircraft confronted certain challenges along the route to Cairo.
“When we flew from Cape Town our radio wasn’t working that well. So, we had trouble communicating with HTC. We had trouble finding landing oversight clearing over Kenya,” said Seemala.
“I was the only builder that flew along. None of the other 19 teenagers flew along. I got rewarded this way because I was the most enthusiastic builder,” added Seemala.
Seemala said she faced some scary moments in the air.
“What happened once was I was sleeping in the aeroplane. And as I was sleeping like that, they tilted the aeroplane. I woke up and it felt like I was being thrown out of the window. And then the pilots were laughing. This was the moment when I questioned why did became part of this. I seriously felt like we were crashing,” laughed Seemala.
Seemala said that she was grateful for the opportunity of partaking in the programme.
“We all came to realise that opportunities like this don’t come on a daily basis. I learnt that we should be grateful for the little things we have. For example, when we were in Zimbabwe and we were at Pick ‘n Pay there was a whole line of people waiting for bread. Life is hard,” added Seemala.
“This is definitely not the end, but the beginning. We are planning a similar project for the youth. But for the youth out there, just try something new each and every day. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. But the important thing is learning from your mistakes,” she added. VOC