HISTORY

Mike Blyth, adventurer, aviator and founder of The Airplane Factory, having earned his wings on trikes, is a die-hard stick and rudder man. Following years of research and a three-year obsession to design and assemble the perfect LSA he delivered a handy prototype. But the perfectionist in him would not rest. Rigorous testing of the aircraft revealed opportunities for nip and tuck improvements that would transform a good design into a great one.

ENTER THE ADRENALINE JUNKIE

Enter the contribution of chairman of The Airplane Factory, James Pitman, a Johannesburg-based corporate lawyer and adrenaline junkie. Mike knew James from some crazy rock-climbing adventures. James was drawn to the creative doyen of the light aviation community, while Mike was intrigued by this wild-eyed rough diamond who combined a sharp intellect with a devilish sense of humour. And of course they both shared a boyish passion for adventure!

With increased means available the business was able to dis-assemble the development prototype and assemble a new improved version. The production prototype was specifically designed to perfect the flight characteristics and ensure handling aligned to “mil spec”.

To prove to themselves and their future customers that they had a worthy achievement on their hands, in July 2009 Mike and James set out (in their production prototype!) on a global circumnavigation.

ZU-TAF TAKES ON THE WORLD

It is safe to say that the Sling was built for heroic adventure. The original yellow Sling 2 known as ZU-TAF  flew Mike and James around the world on a 40-day, 45 000km journey. This journey included numerous 22-hour legs through the severest of weather conditions.

Following the performance of the ZU-TAF over the world’s oceans at more than 50% over MAUW, it was clear that with a turbo-charged engine the aircraft would work well as a 4-seater. So the Sling 4 followed (and in turn circumnavigated the globe in 2011). The Sling Taildragger followed close behind and, with the introduction of the Rotax 915 iS engine, the Sling TSi, which marks The Airplane Factory’s most modern and effective machine to date.

Designed by pilots and built by pilots, extraordinary lengths have been taken to build an aircraft that is safe, reliable and durable. The wide cockpit, excellent all-around view and spacious luggage capacity make the Sling a comfortable and versatile aircraft. But with its sleek design, it is also a head-turner. Throw in best-in-class handling, manoeuvrability and responsive feel and you have yourself an aircraft that is truly making a mark in the history of aviation.

VISION & MISSION

VISION

The Airplane Factory's vision is to become and remain the world's most loved and respected aircraft manufacturer as a consequence of the outstanding qualities of our people, products and ideas.

MISSION

To foster an environment which stimulates and inspires the TAF team to create the finest, most loved, practical, safe and reliable aircraft in the world.

In addition, to contribute to the growth, happiness and personal fulfilment of all stakeholders in the business.

THE INNOVATORS

Mike Blyth - TAF

MIKE BLYTH - Director

Mike Blyth Director

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 - TAF

JAMES PITMAN - Chairman

James Pitman Chairman

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.

Andrew Pitman - The Airplane Factory

ANDREW PITMAN - Managing Director

Andrew Pitman Managing Director

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.

Branko Brkljac – Production Manager Sonaca

BRANKO BRKLJAC - Production Manager Sonaca

Branko Brkljac Stores & Kit Packing Manager

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, Stores & Kit Packing Manager. Branko counts his greatest achievements as a husband, father of three and his career. 

Ivan Booysen

IVAN BOOYSEN - Production Manager

Ivan Booysen Production Manager

Ivan Booysen, engineer, family man and experienced strategic technical management consultant. Since the late 90’s, he started his career in process automation where he gained invaluable experience in many industries from upstream off-shore oil processing facilities to F&B sugar processing plants and every industry in between.

Ivan was the plant manager for the first African wind turbine designer and manufacturer with the first 3rd generation wind turbine prototype installation on the Mozambique coastline.

With over two decades of operation management experience, his skills are well aligned with continues improvement in business processes and strategic business focus.

MANUFACTURING FACILITY

The Airplane Factory, situated at Tedderfield Airpark, Johannesburg, South Africa, is a hangar complex (2 880 m2) where Slings are designed and manufactured. Mike, James and Andrew work from here, as do all staff, keeping a close eye on the production process.

Design, drafting and testing is the work of an in-house team of highly experience aeronautical engineers and draughtsmen. Some of the engineers are pilots themselves, with a passionate interest in the product.

PARTS MANUFACTURING

Unlike most other aircraft manufacturers, TAF manufactures almost every single part itself.

The aircraft is made almost entirely from aluminium, the remainder from carbon fibre or glass fibre, which are manufactured in the composite shop

QUALITY CONTROL

Each stage of manufacture includes a quality control check.

Reject parts are quarantined and when parts reach the store they’ve passed through at least five quality checks.

STORE AND KIT PACKING

Sling Aircraft parts required for both your ready-to-fly and kit build is available through our Stores department. If it’s Sling aircraft parts you need, from nose to tail, our support network has it all! Sling Aircraft kits are designed to be purchased as a complete kit or as a quick build kit which was developed to shorten the construction time by over 100 hours and will still meet the 51% requirement.

SUB ASSEMBLY

Sling Aircraft construction begins with the assembling of detailed parts into our aircraft sub-assemblies. Our current production of aircraft sub-assemblies include features of aerodynamic design and development, structural design and analysis, systems design and integration, tooling design as well as manufacturing. Testing, maintenance and inspection of aircraft sub-assemblies ensure error free production.

PAINT SHOP

We have own own spray shop & team. Having our own spray shop and team of painters allows us to customise each aircraft to the owner’s exact specifications.

FINAL ASSEMBLY

Highly trained technicians and engineers for final assembly.

Final assembly, engine and avionics is completed by highly-trained technicians and engineers; after which test pilots fly the aircraft for around five hours.

UPHOLSTERY & AMO

Enveloped in authentic leather and lavish carpeting, Sling Aircraft stands out with an elegance that adds a touch of class to aircraft interiors. Available in five color palettes: Cast Iron, Red Velvet, Indigo Sky, Namib Dune and Cloud Burst with stitching, piping and panelling in complementary colors.

In addition, our customer support, backup warranties, maintenance and servicing of your aircraft at our AMO will ensure your Sling is able to take you on all the adventures you have planned for the years ahead.

CUSTOMER TESTIMONIALS

Kevin ElsOwner
“What an exceptional experience this has been as the proud owner of a Sling 4.”
Dan JohnsonSport Aviation Magazine
“The Sling is a gentleman’s airplane, you don’t have to be on it all the time.”
Marc C. LeePlane and Pilot Magazine
“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.”
Mike Blyth and James Pitman The Airplane Factory
“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.”
Marc C. LeePlane & Pilot Magazine
“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.”
Dan JohnsonSport Aviation Magazine
“A very nicely integrated control panel throughout.”

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Being an intrinsic part of South Africa is important to us.

Since our inception in 2008, The Airplane Factory has been an intrinsic part of South Africa. As a longstanding pillar in the community, Sling Aircraft has been actively involved in several community outreach programs, including The Children’s Flight, Race For Rhinos, activists in local rights marches, multiple sponsorship efforts for both local and international pilots in training, educational tours for our local scholars as well as family day flights and festivities for our own staff and family members.

Our company continues to look for ways to give back to the community, providing positive, immediate local impact, as well as efforts far-reaching.

CAREERS

Contact us if you’re passionate about a career in aeronautical design and manufacture.

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 hr@airplanefactory.co.za.

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