A group of teens is set to make aviation history as they plan to fly a light aircraft from Cape Town to Cairo in Egypt…
The group of 20 plans to fly the 10,139km distance on June 12 in a plane they have assembled themselves.
“The purpose is to show Africa and even the world that anything is possible if you set your mind to it,” 17-year-old teen pilot Megan Werner, from Krugersdorp, told News24 on Wednesday.
Werner founded U-Dream Global, which supervised the building of the aircraft, in order to promote science, technology, engineering, mathematics education, innovation, youth empowerment and skills development.
The teens built the aircraft in two weeks under the guidance of The Airplane Factory, U-Dream mentors and five team leaders from Denel Aviation.
“The challenge has enabled us to take a lot of teenagers from different backgrounds to teach and equip them with life skills that they can take with them into the future,” said Werner.
The flight will take the team through cities in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea on their way to Egypt.
Safety is top priority
The normal flight time in a commercial passenger jet is about 12 hours, and for the group, safety is a primary concern.
“Africa can be quite a hostile continent especially if you choose the wrong countries. You will notice our route starts in Cape Town and then heads up to Namibia, before cutting across to the east coast of Africa,” said Werner.
“There are a few reasons for this; mainly the safety, but also the fact that we connect all the shores that border Africa on our way. As we will be stopping in Mossel Bay on our way down. That makes it the Indian, Atlantic, Red Sea and Mediterranean. We also have a chase plane that will help us make sensible decisions, but our plane will be flown by teenagers only.”
While logistics and support are being provided by CFS, ExecuJet, Worldfuel and The Airplane Factory, the team needs R350 000 for fuel, accommodation, crew support, documentation and other costs.
They have established a BackaBuddy campaign to raise the extra cash
“By doing this project, we can show the youth and people right across the world that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. If teenagers can build a plane and fly it through Africa, what is stopping you? We hope the public will support our BackaBuddy campaign because a journey of 1 000 miles starts with a single step,” said Werner.
The deadline for the campaign is June 30, as the flight is expected to take more than a month.
Pierre van Ryneveld and Quintin Brand first flew across Africa in a De Havilland DH9 from London in 1920 and SAA first operated a service to Cairo in 1945.
Once they reach Cairo, the group plans to fly home to SA
“The challenge is called Cape to Cairo, but the plan is actually Cape to Cairo and back again,” said Werner.
The return leg is expected to include cities in Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia.
U-Dream Global will host a pre-trip party on June 8 at Tedderfield Airpark in Eikenhof, 24km south of Johannesburg. The public will have an opportunity to meet the team and see the aeroplane fly for the first time.