WATCH | The sky's the limit: Pilot delivers essential supplies to remote SA communities

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  • Humanitarian pilot Kelly Slingers has delivered more than 500 000 medical supplies to under-served remote communities in the last year.
  • Slingers established a non-profit organisation, The Plane Project, marrying her two passions  a love for flying and social justice.
  • Thanks to donations from organisations and businesses, she can help the most vulnerable gain access to essential goods.

A chance encounter with a pilot changed the trajectory of Kelly Slinger's life forever. The then-matriculant traded her dream of a life in the courtroom for a life in the cockpit.

Slingers, a pilot and humanitarian, has dedicated her time to spreading hope through flight by serving remote communities and inspiring young women to pursue their dreams in aviation along the way. The 29-year-old established a non-profit organisation, The Plane Project, in 2014 and, through this initiative, married her love for flying and social justice.

"When I started this project, initially it was to promote careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)," Slingers told News24.

"But last year when Covid hit, we decided we should do more."

Slingers began transporting medical and other essential supplies, including personal protective equipment, to remote parts of South Africa.

"We work with organisations including Gift of the Givers, church relief organisations and private companies who've sponsored flights, fuel and supplies," she said.

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Slingers then finds under-served clinics and organisations with a lack of resources, creates a flight plan, and soon after that the wheels of the compact aircraft leave the tarmac - from the Wonderboom, Lanseria or OR Tambo International airports in Gauteng.

Twenty-Nine-year-old Slingers transports medical s
Twenty-Nine-year-old Slingers transports medical supplies to remote areas in South Africa by plane.
Supplied Kelly Slingers

She extended her services to KwaZulu-Natal after looting, chaos and violence erupted during the July unrest. When government declared a state of disaster in the province, The Plane Project delivered food and other essential goods to affected communities, thanks to generous donations.

To date, the initiative has delivered more than half a million essential supplies to eight provinces since its first relief flight on 28 August 2020.

Aviation needs representation

Slingers told News24 aviation played an essential role in humanitarian relief operations. She said she'd like to make the industry more accessible:

Representation and visible figures in the industry is important. Growing up, I'd never seen a pilot of colour let alone a woman.

Slingers speaks at various schools around the country and has taken young girls under her wing, encouraging them to take to the sky or get involved in the aviation sector. She's made it her mission to ensure that the industry is "open for everyone".

Twenty children from SOS Childrens Village were gi
Twenty children from SOS Childrens Village were gifted a discovery flight at Panorama Airfield in Johannesburg.
Facebook The Plane Project

On 18 April 2021, The Plane Project and We Fly Africa gifted 20 children from the SOS Children's Village in Johannesburg their first experience in the sky.

"Several pilots came together, each one had a child with them and took them on a 30-minute flight over Joburg, and it was magical," said Slingers.

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Such initiatives were important because "all it took to change my life's trajectory was to meet a pilot and be given the gift of flight, so I can only imagine what possibilities could unfold with a day like that", she added.

"Our work makes the world so much smaller and you realise just how accessible aviation makes everything."

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