The Airplane Factory-Populating the World with Slings
By Willie Bodenstein
That the Sling 2 and its bigger sister the 4 has been the most successful aircraft ever designed and produced in South Africa is a fact. However, the South African market can only accommodate so many new aircraft and therefore for any manufacturer of an indigenous product to survive they need to export. Almost from day one TAF has embarked on a publicity campaign and their round the world flights, most culminating at AirVenture, the world's greatest expo of experimental aircraft, is the stuff legends are made off.
Total sales in of the Sling 2 currently stand at 250 of which 120 are ready to fly (RTF) and 130 are kits. South African sales account for 148 (59.1%) of aircraft sold of which 79 are RTF and 69 are kits. The balance of 102 (40.9%), 41 RTF's and 69 kits, has been exported to fifteen countries across the globe with Australians importing 57, 17 RTF's and 40 kits. Eighteen Sling 2s went to the USA, 8 RTF's and 10 kits.
The original Sling 4 that flew to AirVenture Oshkosh
One hundred and twenty Sling 4's have been sold. Again, as expected, the majority, 65 (54.1%) of which 47 are RTF's and 18 kits went to local buyers. The balance of 55 (48.8%) of which 22 are RTS's and 33 are kits were exported to 10 different countries. The USA is the biggest importer of the Sling 4 with 19, 4 RTF's and 15 kits imported. Australia imported 12, 3 RTF's and 9 kits.
Only 3 Sling 2's and 1 Sling 4 has been exported to Continental Europe whilst 3 Sling 2's and 5 Sling 4's went to buyers in the UK. It therefore makes good sense that when in 2015 TAF was approached by the Belgian SONACA Group, TAF to form a Joint Venture, called Sonaca Aircraft TAF agreed.
The SONACA group is an engineering company in aerospace based in Gosselies, Belgium that supplies major companies like Airbus, Bombardier, Dassault, Embraer and employs 2400 people worldwide.
Building on the experience of the companies; Sonaca with 80 years of aero-structure experience and The Airplane Factory with more than 10 years of general aviation leadership the objectives are to develop and sell the Sonaca 200, a certified version of the Sling 2 model. The Sonaca 200 will be offered as a complete airplane, not as a kit. All the parts will be produced in South Africa and the plane will be assembled in Gosselies.
The Sonaca 200 rollout took place on 7 April 2017 at the Sonaca site at Gosselies
The first aircraft (Test Aircraft 1), which was assembled on Sonaca's site in Belgium, has been entirely dedicated to ground tests A second plane (Test Aircraft 2) will be used for the flight tests which are scheduled in April.
After flying the Sonaca 200 Major General Frederik Vansina, Chief of the Belgium Air Force said: "
The new Sonaca 200 flies like a champ. The Sonaca 200 is clearly a very clever design. The caption 'made by pilots for pilots' under which the aircraft is marketed is sensed throughout the entire flight."
Production of the SONACA 200 is scheduled to begin in June 2017.
On Saturday 3 June the Airplane Factory as part of its ongoing publicity campaign TAF held one of its breakfast fly-ins to its base at Tedderfield when visitors were afforded the opportunity to of a guided tour of its state of the art manufacturing facilities.
TAF manufacturing Facility
EAA Chapter 322 visitors from left to right Rob Jonkers, Martin Meyer and Karl Jensen
Final assembly line
Mike Blyth & James Pitman along with their USA TAF Team will again, as they have done for the last couple of years, be exhibiting the Sling 2 and 4 at AirVenture, Oshkosh. Should you be at Osh please do go and say hello.
Tristan Brouard & Sean Russell will be the official TAF entry in the Race for Rhinos. No doubt a large number of privately entered Slings will also fly the flag for TAF. The sales team will also be present at the Middelburg airshow as well as the ever popular Nylstroom Taildraggers Fly-in.
Judging by the efforts by TAF Slings will soon not only be a household word in SA but in the rest of the world as well.