Tedderfield Airpark, south of Johannesburg came alive on Saturday morning, 17 October. Sling Aircraft hosted a breakfast fly-in for the aviation community, who were starved for a reason to fly and meet up with friends after the lock-down that all but grounded general aviation countrywide.
It was a very early start for the Sling team with the first aircraft arriving just after 6:00 and a steady stream of new arrivals throughout the morning. By 11:30 over 240 breakfasts had been served.
The Sling aircraft story is one that any South African can be very proud of, very much a story of perseverance and absolute commitment to make their mark on the aviation industry worldwide. Mike Blyth the founder of what was then named “The Airplane Factory” decided to design a Light Sport Aircraft that ticked all the boxes that were non-negotiable in such an aircraft, there was no aircraft available at the time that he felt fit the bill. Three years later Mike had completed the first prototype of what would become a legendary aircraft.
James Pitman, a corporate lawyer and self-confessed adrenaline junkie heard about the aircraft and contacted Mike about getting involved in the development of this gem. James joined the team and brought along a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and at the time much-needed finance.
The two adventurers set about dissembling the original prototype and rebuilding a further improved version and as soon as it was complete they decided to put it to the ultimate test. Mike and James hatched a plan to fly this, as yet untested aircraft around the world in forty days. In July 2009 they took off in their little yellow Sling to prove to the world and more importantly to themselves that they had a winner on their hands. 45 000km later and they were home ready to start producing the Sling 2 for aviation enthusiasts around the world.
While flying, sometimes for twenty-two hours non stop, Mike and James were so impressed with the abilities of the Sling 2 that they discussed designing a four-seater variant. The Sling 2 and Sling 4 were later joined by the Sling Taildragger for the more adventurous pilot. When Rotax introduced the 915is engine the Sling TSi was developed which will rival any current four-seater on the market in almost every department. To date, 328 Sling 2’s and 281 Sling 4’s have been delivered to their new owners in both factory built and kit form.
The latest development for Sling Aircraft is the all-new Sling TSi High-Wing which, if all goes according to plan, will maiden before the end of the year. The “intrepid duo” will no doubt hatch some elaborate plan to introduce this new aircraft to the world. The Sling 4 TSi High Wing may just prove to be the “sling” that propels this young David in amongst the Goliath’s of the aviation world.
Back to the breakfast........ Aviators made their way from far a wide to join the fun, not only in Slings but in all manner of aircraft, including many Vans RV’s. Daniel Ralefata and his team for “Rise Above Aviators” treated some young ones to an introductory flight in a Sling aircraft which was flown by one of their young aviators Gotsi Diale, who was very impressed to see a Sling 4 TSi bearing his name as a registration. This particular Sling is the first Sling built under British home building regulations on South African soil and is due to be shipped to the UK in the coming weeks. The aircraft will be utilised by Tim Hardy the Sling Agent in the UK.
While enjoining good food and great company all the visitors were encouraged to take a tour through the factory, located in hangars at Tedderfield. The factory is divided up into sections each with their own specific function, it was very enlightening to follow the journey taken by the aircraft from initial layout to final assembly.
The US market has recently been given a major shot in the arm when YouTube sensations, Max Maxwell and MojoGrip both purchased Sling 4 TSi’s. Max happened to see MojoGrips video of a Sling and there and then decided to buy one himself. Max is currently at the Sling factory busy assembling his aircraft which he hopes to have airfreighted to his home in North Carolina as soon as it is completed.
This major publicity coup coupled with the US Sling Academy has significantly increased sales to the USA, the Sling Academy have a standing order for, what is known as a “Mac Sling” every month. The “Mac Sling” is a standard Sling 2 which is used for Ab Intio training at the academy.
Sling Aircraft is one of the very few companies worldwide that can boast a very productive last eight months, in fact, according to general manager Andrew Pitman the last eight months were the best eight months of the companies history. The impact of COVID-19 on their production has been rather negligible resulting in only slight delays on delivery of some orders.
The Sling team, however, took the lock-down period to streamline their distribution systems to ensure more accurate kit delivery which will, in turn, reduce the frustration experienced by builders receiving the incorrect parts and costs due to correcting these hiccups.
Sling Aircraft have put the South African Aviation industry firmly on the world map and we wish them great success in the future in this highly completive industry. Well done guys keep making South Africa proud.