Man overjoyed as helicopter dream comes closer to reality

By Drum Digital
23 June 2015

All he wanted to do was fly in a helicopter, so he built his own.

The unemployed Rustenburg man who built a helicopter out of recycled materials is now going for a ride in the real thing, perhaps the very helicopter that inspired Mbatha to create his own.

Last week, 35-year-old Vusimuzi Mbatha told News24 that all he wanted to do was fly in a helicopter, so he built his own.

He became fascinated with helicopters after seeing one during a strike on the platinum belt in the North West last year and called on aviation experts or experienced pilots to check if it would be safe for him to take his creation for a maiden flight.

His dream will become a reality this week with the help of Bidvest Protea Coin.

Opportunity to fly

Chief operations officer Waal de Waal told News24 it was likely that Mbatha saw their helicopter in January last year.

"We [were] in that area and it's probably our chopper that he saw there and we're the only chopper that's got a FLIR [forward looking infrared]," De Waal said.

"The guy wants to fly and it seems like he wants to become a pilot one day, so let's just take our stuff there, park next to him, take a photo or two, get him in our chopper, get him in the air, and take a flip so he can see what it's like."

De Waal said Bidvest Protea Coin's pilot would take a seat in Mbatha's chopper and give the budding pilot and engineer feedback on his machine.

"We [are] operating on the mines, especially with the strikes. He mentioned that he looked at that chopper and that's when he started building his own, so I just thought it would be a great idea," De Waal said.

"That's where it all started, by looking at the chopper, to get that chopper off the ground and give him more of an opportunity to fly."

Upon hearing the news, Mbatha was overjoyed.

"I am extremely happy. It is like a dream to me," he said.

"It is like a dream I had about the helicopter. It is unfolding."

Mbatha's brother Thami Mbatha gave his thanks to Bidvest Protea Coin for stepping in, stating it was "so nice" of the company.

Public steps in to help

Since Mbatha's dream went public last week, News24 readers and even companies have come forward offering their help.

Lerato Sedumeni, from SADS Aviation, said last week the company were hoping to make contact with Mbatha.

On Monday, she said the company had met with Mbatha and his family over the weekend.

The company has proposed to help Mbatha with his English, as that was the language of aviation, and also with his continuing education, as Mbatha has not completed his matric.

"SADS wants to help him to take that idea to the next level because if the foundation is built right, anything is possible," Sedumeni said.

"He also wanted to be in engineering, the building of helicopters. We want to help him achieve everything that he can."

She said Mbatha was currently considering their proposal.

Nico Cloete, a trainee helicopter pilot from Cape Town, also started a Facebook group to raise money so that Mbatha can fly in a helicopter.

He went as far as opening a separate bank account for donations to pay for Mbatha's trip to and flight in the Mother City.

Xoliswa Ndwandwe posted on the group, "This has to be by far the most beautiful story of what a rainbow nation should be about. Its moments like these that make proudly South African", while Aidan Malloch-Brown said, "Incredible endeavour, this chap is a true aviator at heart!"

All the bells and whistles

The helicopter sports a television set, a clock situated on the back of a seat, and a two way-radio. It has a green and a red light on its tail that flashes at night. Its engine is powered by petrol and a motorbike battery is used to propel the rotor. The rotor hub is housed in an old soft drink crate.

The cockpit is also built out of soft drink crates. A fire extinguisher is located on the left side of the helicopter. The helicopter stands on a four-wheeled trolley built out of scrap metal.

The steering wheel is made from a PlayStation control. There is also a clutch and an accelerator.

"The helicopter is incomplete, there are some parts that I have to put in. The challenge is the money. I am not working and depend on odd jobs to build this helicopter," Mbatha told News24 last week.

Mbatha, originally from Libode in the Eastern Cape, came to Rustenburg ten years ago looking for jobs in the mines but remains unemployed.

Source: News24

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