A SLING 4 - FROM PARTS TO FLIGHT IN FOUR DAYS

By Willie Bodenstein


All photos The Airplane Factory


Building an aircraft in four days and flying it on the fifth was never going to easy. Building it away from your factory at the AAD 2014 the biggest exhibition of defence and aviation products in the southern hemisphere under the scrutiny of thousands of inquisitive eyes was well impossible some said. That probably is one of the reasons why The Airplane Factory decided to do it. They seem to have the knack to make the impossible possible.

Preparations started well before the opening of the exhibition on 17 September. Building and flying an aircraft involves more than just putting pieces together. There are reams and reams of paperwork to complete, the parts to be transported, teams to be selected, work schedules had to be compiled, catering had to arranged for the teams and much more.

The plan was to have 80% of the fuselage completed within the first 24 hours and the wings done by day two. The engine, wiring, plumbing, and controls installed by end of day three leaving day four free for final inspections and testing.




By late Tuesday afternoon the tent that was to serve as the assembly area was up, the fence around it erected and the relevant tools and parts laid out at the various assembly stations. If they were to achieve their goal each sub assembly, each section and each kit would have to be built at exactly the right time to ensure they come together flawlessly and are transformed into a Sling. There could be no compromise on quality, building it fast is no reason to build it badly.




Wednesday 17 September the start of the build and the morning shift arrived at 07h30. The traffic was horrendous, the parking chaotic and it was only an hour later when they finally got to the tent. It was not a good start. Although only an hour late they lost 18 man hours of precious time. The team was fired up thought and by 20h00 that evening they were slightly ahead of schedule.




The seemingly chaotic scattered parts of the morning by then could not be mistaken for anything but an aircraft. The rear and centre fuselage were married and the wing kit boxes were opened and primed. The engine was completely wired and was ready for fitting by the nightshift. The wheels have been assembled and the undercarriage was ready to be fitted.

A constant stream of visitors during the day stood by the fence, the aircraft seemingly taking shape before their eyes. Even the Chief of the Senegalese Air Force paid a visit.




When the morning shift arrived on Thursday morning the fuselage was on its wheels and the engine was bolted on with the wings almost completed. The amount of work done by the night was amazing; in fact they were so far ahead that it was decided to only work the day shift, dispensing with the night shift.

The day shift jumped right in, working like a well-oiled machine. Work on the empennage and wings continued. The ballistic chute was installed and the wiring of the engine and panel continued. Work continued until sunset and they retired for much earned break

Friday traditionally is the bu