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Mike’s earliest connection to aviation come from his father, who flew in the RAF. An early childhood fascination with flying was given expression when in 1984 Mike took a short flight in a Quicksilver ultralight, “I immediately realized I had found my calling.” He began sketching again and a few years later made and flew his first aircraft, a two-seat ultralight.
Mike, a well-known figure in aviation circles before developing the Sling, won the 1995 Microlight World Championships on a prototype trike that had just four hours of flight time. “I am not sure what gets into my head, but I have made a habit of flying my prototypes over long distances after just a few hours of testing.” One such trip involved a record-breaking 45,000km cross-continental flight on a weight-shifting trike.
By 2005, Mike was eager to test his design skills on something more substantial. “I made a list of features I would like to see in my perfect aircraft. On doing some research, I was surprised that I couldn’t find a Light Sport Aircraft that had all the features in it that I considered important.” As South Africa’s distributor for Rotax, Mike was keen to design an aircraft that would do justice to these famously reliable and efficient engines. He teamed up with an aeronautical engineer, an aerodynamicist and a draftsman and by 2008 they had developed a prototype.
James Pitman studied science and law at the University of Cape Town before deciding on following the legal route. If law paid the bills, adventure animated the soul. James was something of a legend in South African adventure circles, with some serious mountaineering challenges under his belt.
In 2006 he joined up with Mike Blyth and Marianne Schwankhart for a flying (microlight) and rock-climbing trip around southern Africa. This trip was turned into a movie, No Need for Parking – An African Rock Adventure.
From there the idea to team up with Mike on an around-the-world adventure took root. Almost by accident, James – a lawyer, businessman and adventurer – was building an aircraft. He realised that his very eventful life had been working up to this moment. His keen intellect and very sharp scientific brain meant he could add serious value to building the Sling LSA prototype. His irrepressible energy and crazy enthusiasm helped fuel Mike’s vision of the ideal LSA. They made great partners. They achieved their goal of flying the Sling around the world. James, whose love of flying is palpable, sunk his savings into TAF and spent the first seven years in the business giving life and soul to creating an aircraft brand of lasting value.
Also growing up on a farm in the Midlands of Natal, Andrew, early on, developed a love for traveling, the outdoors and speed, often being found stripping a 2-stroke dirt bike, only to see if it would go faster once put back together. After attending Michaelhouse boarding school for a fairly rebellious five years, Andrew graduated from Cape Town Varsity College in 2002 with an IMM diploma in International Business Management and Marketing.
He moved to London the following year, and joined Addison Corporate Marketing as an Account Executive and later Account Manager. Andrew provided support to the investor relations teams of various clients, including Anglo American, Vodafone, The Premier League, Visa and WPP.
With six years’ experience in corporate financial communications, Andrew fled the UK and returned to South Africa to join The Airplane Factory. He started as the tea boy and book keeper, later becoming sales and marketing manager. Having developed a passion for business, flying and adventure, Andrew now heads up The Airplane Factory. He oversees Sales, Marketing, New Business Development, Finance and Operations both locally and internationally, and is the Accountable Manager of the company.
Born and raised in Serbia, Branko formed part of the Serbian Secret Service and later joined the Special Operations Unit and Police Force. Shortly after, he spent some time travelling through the Balkans in south eastern Europe. At that point he developed a passion for fishing, cycling and of course aviation. Upon completion of his travels, he advanced his studies in Aircraft Maintenance and Operations Management.
In 2009, Branko moved to Botswana where he lived for 6 short months. It was here he met his wife, a Zulu woman, and the two re-located to South-Africa in 2010. Here he worked as Production Manager at Wagtail Aviation. With 5 years experience as Production Manager, Branko joined TAF in 2015 as Sub Assembly Manager. He was later promoted to Final Assembly Manager and most recently of course, Production Manager Sonaca. Branko counts his greatest achievements as a husband, father of three and his career. He heads up the manufacturing side of the business as well as the Sonaca S200 project.
Daniel completed his qualification in Information Technology and Computer Science. He ultimately spent a few months working in I.T before deciding on a career within the aviation industry. He joined TAF in 2010 and has since completed numerous training courses specialising in Rotax engines both locally and abroad.
His experience and skill set with TAF has lead him to the UK, Paraguay, Austria, Belgium and Botswana. There he was actively involved in the build of an aircraft in 10 days. He was also involved in setting up of an international distributorship and assisting on the assembly of the Sonaca S200 aircraft.
Within his 8 years at TAF, Daniel is now qualified in Rotax 912/914/912iS technical training. This training includes, RFSC Rotax 9 series maintenance speciality, RFSC Rotax 9 series service speciality, Rotax Heavy Maintenance and Repair. Daniel continues to develop his passion for aviation and technology.
Karin’s connection to aviation was developed throughout her time as the Administrator for the AMO and Stores department with Shadow Lite CC now trading as Jabiru Aircraft Southern Africa. She then made the move to Jonker Sailplanes. There she operated as the Purchasing and Stores Manager and was later promoted to AMO Workshop Manager.
After spending some time in the USA and UK and travelling extensively throughout South-Africa, Karin settled in Johannesburg south. This happened when she joined TAF in 2014 as the AMO Administration Manager. Karin has qualifications in the South African Civil Aviation Regulations and the South African Civil Aviation Technical Standard. She is responsible for all procedures, bookings, customer correspondence, invoicing, quotations and SACAA and RAASA paperwork for our aircraft.
“What an exceptional experience this has been as the proud owner of a Sling 4.”
“The Sling is a gentleman’s airplane, you don’t have to be on it all the time.”
“It is one of few aircraft anywhere close to this price range that can carry four adults, six hours of fuel and 70 pounds of luggage.”
“We built an aircraft to give expression to our love for flying. Little did we know that the Sling would become the lead character in our story, the plucky fighter who said ‘YES’ to our crazy around-the-world adventures.”
“The Sling is a superbly balanced aircraft and would be considered a ‘pilot’s airplane’ if that term hadn’t been worn to dust by marketing people for airplanes that don’t come close. The Sling inspires you to fly it.”
“A very nicely integrated control panel throughout.”
The aviation industry is one of the most exciting and competitive industries in the world! At The Airplane Factory, we employ people who can help us soar above the rest; people ready to commit themselves to quality and performance.
We know it takes passion and energy in every area of our business to create quality aircraft. That’s why we invest in highly talented people, providing them opportunities to continuously grow and realize their full potential.
You will find that we stand behind our values of safety, people, quality, service and community. At The Airplane Factory we aren’t just employees. We are parents, community volunteers and sports enthusiasts who enjoy warm weather year round in sunny South Africa.
If you share our values, start your search for a new career by emailing email@example.com.