First flight of teen-built Sling 4 light aircraft ahead of trans-continental journey


Tedderfield Airfield, south of Johannesburg, over the weekend witnessed the public unveiling and first flight of a Sling 4 light aircraft built by a group of teenagers for a remarkable Cape to Cairo flight.

The aircraft is due to depart on its trans-continental flight later this week as part of an initiative by the U Dream Global Foundation, which aims to uplift, empower and transform the lives of youngsters.

Family, friends, sponsors, and supporters crowded the venue on a typically cold highveld morning on Saturday to witness the first flight of the aircraft, accompanied in formation by the first production model Sling 4. The Authority to Fly for the aircraft ZU-UDG was only issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) on Friday afternoon, so Saturday’s flight was final confirmation that the adventure was a go and could start as planned.

Saturday morning was very emotional for Megan Werner, the 17th year old founder of the non-profit U Dream Global Foundation, who thanked her friends and family for being with her in getting this difficult dream from conception to reality. Werner is one of nearly two dozen teenagers involved in the project.

Following submissions via WhatApp application videos, over 200 youths from diverse backgrounds across South Africa applied for the 20 places available in the project. Not one of the twenty youths selected dropped out during the difficult build programme. Under the guidance and supervision from The Airplane Factory, U-Dream mentors and five team leaders from Denel Aviation, the twenty inexperienced teenagers built the Sling 4 aircraft in a highly controlled environment within three weeks in June 2018. The enthusiasm and camaraderie built up during the project was evident during the energetic celebration dance they gave during the unveiling ceremony in front of their parents on Saturday.

The team, accompanied by a support aircraft, will start their 10,000 km adventure with a flight from Johannesburg to Cape town on 12 June, via Mossel bay, and then proceed through Africa via Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea on their way to Egypt over a period of five weeks, with a return flight back via Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia. U Dream Global is following in the footsteps of Pierre van Ryneveld and Quintin Brand who first flew across Africa in a De Havilland DH9 from London in 1920, and South African Airways (SAA), which first operated a service to Cairo in 1945.

Using specially modified, self-made drones, the challenge will be documented on video as some of the teenagers fly alongside adult supervisors who will use a second Sling 4 aircraft for support to monitor proceedings.

As a sponsor to the project, defenceWeb is proud to be associated with this ambitious aviation outreach initiative that fosters visionary thinking, inspiring young people to pursue their dreams while promoting and supporting innovation, technology and entrepreneurship as necessary key drivers for Africa’s development and transformation.

defenceWeb has made a generous donation towards the aircraft, enabling the final completion of the project in time for the flight to proceed during the school vacation period, and wishes the team a safe journey.