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Faces of Africa – The 7 Day Airplane, Part 1

Read 3 minutes

Sling 5577, five men, five women building a two-seater airplane for seven days that is meant to fly to Europe in seven days. As if this is not tasking enough, half of the team, all the women; Dudu Mathebulaare, Cheri Lee, Nomfundo Xulu, Vega Ebbersten and Bronwyn Eyre are inexperienced in aeroplane manufacturing and without any mechanical expertise but all the men; James Pitman, Mike Blyth, Jean d’Assonville, Vince Ntuli and Gareth Bosch are skillful employees of The Airplane Factory. This sounds like a farfetched dream but the team is ready to embark on the endeavor and make this a reality in seven days!

“Complete beginners are able to build if they work hard at it,” asserts James Pitman, Director of The Airplane Factory.

James Pitman (left) and Mike Blyth in one of their own made planes. They are the founders of Airplane Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Airplane Factory in Johannesburg South Africa is known for the design and production of Sing, a light sports aircraft. It was founded in 2006 by Mike Blyth and his business partner James Pitman. Mike is a vibrant and experienced plane designer and builder. He has spent 29 years manufacturing and selling airplanes. His passion for airplanes is evident. Currently, he is the director at Airplane Factory in charge of development, marketing, and operations.

The reason why they decided to engage inexperienced people in their team was to show that not only can the factory personnel manufacture a high tech airplane but also supervised inexperienced people can build than any other. The team is divided to assemble different parts of the plane. Swedish student Vega is working with Vince Ntuli on the central fuselage, Jean is building the fuel tank with Browyn and Cheri Lee, Mike and James teams are building the wings together with Dudu and Nomfundo. But Gareth is the only one working on the electronics.

Vince Ntuli working on a plane engine. Vince was the first employee of Airplane Factory. He is a professional in charge of the plane engine








“Only Gareth can do the electronics and he has to do 150hours a week in the next 6 days! So Gareth’s got a hell of a job ahead of him,” tells James.

The task begins on a Saturday. Tools and equipment required for the plane are brought in at theTedderfield where assembling will take place. Without much ado, labor kicks off. The time schedule is very tight, work starts at 0700 hours, and hence the team must wake up early in order to stick to their envisioned plan. Also to be able to maximize time, the full crew will be living on the airfield for the duration of the build.

“I thought the first day we gonna get to know each other but it was work from day one, the seriousness and the commitment. I mean, it set the pace for the other days that follow,” tells Dudu, a journalist.

Dudu Mathebulaare is one of the volunteers who were engaged in building a two-seater plane in 7 days and which will fly to Europe in 7 days.








The excitement about building the plane has crept into some crew and they sleep late hence waking up early is difficult. As a result time schedule is not well observed. Mike is worried and he cancels rest time in order to compensate for the lost time.
At the end of day two, tremendous progress has been made, the wings are complete and the rear and central fuselages have been joined.

On the third day, fatigue and weariness start to set in, but the enthusiasm is still there. The crew must work extra harder in the next four days in order to beat their deadline. Part 2 of the show continues.

The crew at their workshop building Sling 5577. 5577 stands for 5 women 5 men making a plane for 7 days and which will fly to Europe in 7 days.
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