Helicopter man gets real wings

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Flying high: Sky is the limit for creative Zimbabwean

TIME TO FLY: Hendrick Chebanga
TIME TO FLY: Hendrick Chebanga  Image: SUPPLIED
The remarkable story of Hendrick Chebanga, who built a life-size replica of a police helicopter in his backyard, has caught the attention of aviators.

The 30-year-old is now ready to take to the skies in a real helicopter.

Pilot and co-owner of a helicopter Alan Robertson said he was touched by Chebanga’s story.

After reading the story in The Times last week, he immediately contacted the Zimbabwean nicknamed “The Helicopter Man” by his community of Dilopye, near Hammanskraal outside Pretoria.

“I asked him if he would be interested in spending some time with us at the Grand Central Airport, fly in a real helicopter and have a chance to spend some time with guys who maintain helicopters so he could work on the real thing. He was very keen and now I am setting it up,” Robertson said.

Grand Central Airport is a privately-owned facility in Midrand.

Chebanga used discarded corrugated iron sheets and other scrap metal to build the helicopter which he painted in police colours – complete with SAPS insignia.

The helicopter, which boasts a blue light and siren, also caught the attention of Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, who posed for pictures.

This paved the way for the helicopter to be displayed at Pretoria West Police College for months.

Robertson said Chebanga was gifted and had potential.

He said he would talk to his associates at plane manufacture, Airbus, to arrange for Chebanga to be assessed for possible training.

Chebanga could not believe he was finally going to fly – for the first time in his life.

“I just cannot wait. But most of all I am encouraged that my work is noticed by people operating the real helicopters.

“This means I am on to something,” he said.

BY SIPHO MABENA – TimesLIVE

TMG DIGITAL

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