A group of South African teenagers has taken on a challenge to make a self-assembled plane that is going to fly it across the continent. And they have successfully landed in Egypt three weeks after it set off from Cape Town. Aviation experts say this a significant achievement, one which will inspire teens who wish to be pilots, engineers or anything else.
Seventeen-year-old Megan Werner is a pilot, even if she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet.
Her U-Dream global a non-profit organization helped a diverse group of twenty African teenagers assemble a light-weight aircraft.
Werner and a few of her colleagues left Cape Town on the 13th of June 2019 for a round-trip flight to Cairo, with stops in eleven countries along the way.
“If you’re a teenager and you’ve already built a plane, you can say to yourself, ‘Well, I’ve built a plane while I was a teenager, what else am I able to do?’ and then for the teenagers flying across Africa, just to be able to make a difference and show individuals what’s possible is really inspiring,” she said.
Confident and Inspiring
Agnes Semeela helped to assemble the fuselage for the kit aircraft, which the teens built under qualified adult supervision.
“I know for an indisputable fact that my team did their best, their absolute best, and I’m very confident that this airplane will make it to Cairo and back,” she said.
During the maiden flight event, the South African teens saw their plane take to the air for the first time.
Aspiring pilot Lesego Ngoashen is now even more interested in aviation after learning about building aircraft by being a part of the U-Dream global assembling team.
“Seeing that’s now no longer like adult people participating in this industry, but additionally young people can become involved in such projects, I think it’s going to inspire a lot of people to actually be a part of aviation,” she said.
Adults along for the ride
With both her parents working in aviation, Werner’s interest in flying isn’t any surprise. Her father, Des Werner, an airline pilot, will fly along in a second plane for the trip from southern to northern Africa and back.
“The plan is crazy enough, it doesn’t need to be that crazy that my daughter must fly across Africa by herself,” he said. “So, I’ll go and make sure she’s OK. Course I’ve got a bit more experience than what she has, and I’m there simply to support and make the right decisions.”
The other adult pilot, Werner Froneman, is the U-Dream global Project director, coach. He will also follow the teens on their cross-continental journey.
“Obviously fatigue plays a big role that we need to manage with the students so that we are able to make sure that they’re always awake. That they’re always sharp to be able to make the correct choices,” he said. “This is going to stretch their limits.”
The hands-on involvement by teenagers can only help Africa’s aviation industry, says Athol Franz, editor of African Pilot Magazine.
“Because, the older guys like myself, need to realize that young people are going to replace us,” he said. “And the better skilled they are, and the more they understand, and the more excited they’re regarding aviation, the better for aviation in the world.”
The U-Dream global team will travel some 12,000 kilometers throughout the round trip flight.
Along the way, they’ll take other teenagers up in the plane to inspire them to also reach for greater heights.
And AN AVIATION is very proud to be one of the supporters for this amazing project and we are also providing handling to the team in Egypt airports