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South African teens flying self-assembled plane across Africa

The teenagers in the assembled plane

The teenagers in the assembled plane

A group of South African teenagers has assembled a four-seater airplane and is flying it across the continent. Aviation experts say this a significant feat, one that will inspire teens who want to be pilots, engineers or anything else.

Seventeen-year-old Megan Werner is a pilot, even though she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet. Her U-Dream Global nonprofit helped a diverse group of 20 African teenagers assemble a light aircraft. Werner and some of her colleagues left Cape Town this week for a round-trip flight to Cairo, with stops in 11 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 can I do?’ And then for the teenagers flying across Africa, just to be able to make a difference and show people what is possible is really inspiring,” she said.

Confidentand inspiring

Agnes Semeela helped to assemble the fuselage for the kit aircraft, which the teens built under qualified adult supervision.

“I know for a 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 part of the U-Dream Global assembling team.

“Seeing that’s now no longer like adult people engaging in this industry, but also young people can get involved in such projects, I think it’s going to inspire a lot of people to actually join aviation,” she said.

Adults along for the ride

With both her parents working in aviation, Werner’s interest in flying is no 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 check that she’s OK. Course I’ve got a bit more experience than what she has, and I’m there just 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 can make sure that they are always awake. That they’re always sharp to be able to make the right decisions,” 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, have to realize that young people are going to replace us,” he said. “And the better skilled they are, and the more they know, and the more excited they are about aviation, the better for aviation in the world.”

The U-Dream Global team will travel some 12,000 kilometers during 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.


-1 #1 WADADA roger 2019-06-21 16:45
This airplane is dangerous
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0 #2 Karemire 2019-06-21 18:56
Quoting WADADA roger:
This airplane is dangerous

Not at all. The "build" must meet certification standards before the plane is even allowed to taxi out of its garage.

These teens are not "jua kali" lot.
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0 #3 Lysol 2019-06-21 20:44
These teens are mere thrill seekers.

Wish them good luck. Many have perished trying the same in other countries. Not to mention one Amelia Earhart, the first woman who tried to fly around the globe. And many others after that.

Sometimes taking risks can pay off, but Ugandans are cowards that is why they always chicken out once the regime releases it's dogs (militias) against them. Ugandan youths should learn how to stand up to the coward bullies, if they want to determine their own future Learn from the rest of the free world.

Ugandans are become a laughing stock of the world to allow one old senile individual to rule them for life. What a big shame!
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0 #4 rubangakene 2019-06-21 22:07
This sounds exciting, at least it is better than going to the Middle East, Asia and Europe to do "cheeyo".

I wish this government could get teenagers to think positively to enhance knowledge and experiences; not simply to create the so-called "wealth".

We have so many layabouts in Uganda who aspire to be boda-boda riders and stick wielding local defence louts. It is about time this government think seriously about a National Service Scheme that will help identify our young people's capabilities.
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+1 #5 Ugandan 2019-06-22 14:20
#1 WADADA roger 2019-06-21 16:45
This airplane is dangerous

WADADA roger, that's the kind of mindset that has left the Ugandan youths with only a few options: ride boda, make chapatti by the roadside, braid hair in the salon or go to the Arabian Gulf as domoestic servants.

A few year a go a lad in western Uganda was arrested just because he was attempting to make a rocket!
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0 #6 Franklin 2019-06-23 06:08
Uganda should learn to support young innovators like the chap who tried build a rocket.
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0 #7 Karemire 2019-06-23 14:41
Quoting Franklin:
Uganda should learn to support young innovators like the chap who tried build a rocket.

A rocket for what purpose? I would not support any technology that has military applications, including farmers who are growing "pilipili" for tear-gas, while pretending to be doing it for Uganda's food security
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