How Kenya missed out on a once in a lifetime chance to be part of history after denying South African teens flying home-made landing rights

Some of the U-Dream Global project team pilots.
  • Pilot Megan Werner, 17, founder of U-Dream Global project, said she was thrilled by the accomplishment.
  • Kenya, which prides itself as the gateway of Africa, was initially part of the one of the stopover countries but was scrubbed due to routing issues.
  • Prior to making the trip, a group of 20 teens with no aviation background were plucked from various backgrounds by U-Dream Global to build a Sling-4 silver aircraft in a highly controlled environment within three weeks in June 2018.

On Monday, six South African teenagers made history after successfully landing a four-seater Sling 4 plane they built from scratch with their own bare hands in Egypt, three weeks after it set off from Cape Town.

Pilot Megan Werner, 17, founder of U-Dream Global project, said she was thrilled by the accomplishment.

"I'm so honoured to have made a difference around the continent at the places we've stopped.

"The purpose of the initiative is to show Africa that anything is possible if you set your mind to it," she added.

Megan was one of six teenagers who flew the silver home-made plane which is emblazoned with maps of Africa on both wings together with sponsors' logos. The six alternated as pilots throughout the 12,000km (7,455 mile) trip from Cape Town to Cairo after obtaining their pilot’s licenses last year.

Prior to making the trip, a group of 20 teens with no aviation background were plucked from various backgrounds by U-Dream Global to build a Sling-4 silver aircraft in a highly controlled environment within three weeks in June 2018.

In early 2018, Megan founded U-Dream Global, a non-profit organization and ambitious aviation outreach initiative that fosters visionary thinking, inspiring young people to pursue their dreams while promoting and supporting innovation, technology and entrepreneurship as necessary key drivers for Africa’s development and transformation.

The journey began June 15th in Cape Town with the team planning to make eleven stops in nine countries and shed light on the aviation industry. During stop-offs on the continent along the way, the team will give talks, visit rural and disadvantaged areas.

The crew successfully landed in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt. 

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Kenya, which prides itself as the gateway of Africa, was initially part of the one of the stopover countries but was scrubbed due to routing issues. After spending the past few days negotiating with Kenyan authorities for flight clearance to land in Nairobi was unsuccessful the team left Zanzibar on Sunday.

The authorities in Kenya say they were not happy with our routing and thus denied us entry,” said team leader Des Werner, father of 17- year old Megan Werner, founder of U- Dream Global.

We do have the option to change routings but we just don’t have the time for it. Our feeling is that if they are difficult then we just don’t go there. It is after all their own country that misses out in terms of our team interacting with and inspiring youth in their country.”

The impressive feat wasn’t, however, without its fair of challenges. In the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, they could not get fuel.

When we eventually got it, the support aircraft started leaking fuel so they couldn’t fly with us and only two people – Driaan van den Heever, the safety pilot, and I carried on,” Megan said. 

Their basic pilot's licences also presented a further challenge as they only allow flying at a height where the ground is still visible and prohibit entering cloud. 

We were concerned about flying across Sudan because of the political unrest in that country.”

The last leg, from Addis Ababa to Cairo via Aswan, further tested the pilots' mettle. The two pilots encountered a problem with one of their avionic systems about an hour into Egyptian airspace. So, they decided it would be better to land at the closest domestic airport in Cairo, instead of the international airport as planned.

"That created a little chaos but it was done in the interest of safety," Des Werner said.

"In the end it was just a loose connection which they sorted out but the bureaucratic process took a while to sort out because they had to complete a report," he added.

"When we landed in Egypt the authorities wanted to arrest us, take our passports and licences but luckily after about four hours, everything was sorted out and we got some more fuel and carried on to Aswan. We then flew from Aswan to Cairo and it was a really awesome feeling to land here," said Megan.

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