Tanzania has started to build its own helicopters and we could see them take flight as early as 2018.
The prototype model is a two-seater and it is in its final stages of completion at the Mechanical and Engineering Department of the Arusha Technical College, which runs a fully-fledged factory producing various forms of machinery, including a prototype motor vehicle and a number of industrial engines.
But the helicopter is currently their most impressive project.
“We are complementing President Magufuli’s industrialisation policy in pioneering the first locally made helicopters that will be available to ordinary residents at affordable prices,” Engineer Abdi Mjema.
The idea was hatched two months ago by two engineers at the Arusha Technical College; Engineer Adisai Msongole, now serving as the ATC Bursar, and Engineer Abdi Mjema. The chassis as well as airframe for the pioneer chopper is ready – complete with a mounted flat engine.
“We had initially intended the two-seater helicopter to be used for surveillance, rescue and agricultural purposes. However, as the project takes shape, we may increase the airframes to carry more people for serious transportation,” said the engineer.
The helicopter is currently 50 per cent complete and features the popular gasoline powered VW flat engine on board. The motors, manufactured by Volkswagen in Germany, are the same used to make the ‘Robinson’ helicopters in the United States. “Once we get the aviation authority approval, we shall complete the most sensitive part of the helicopter — mounting the main rotor.
This should be ready in three week’s time,” said Eng Mjema, adding that Arusha will set history as the first region to fly the first-ever Tanzanian manufactured helicopter in July 2016. With a non-pressurised cabin, the Prototype ATC helicopter has a flying ceiling of 400 feet for starters, taking into consideration that Arusha is already at a higher altitude.
But the flying height is set to increase with more complete and accomplished models. Most commercial choppers can fly up to 8,000 feet above sea level. On how many choppers the college can manufacture in a year once the project gets a nod from higher authorities, Eng Mjema said that depended on demand.
“But with serious work we can roll out up to 20 such helicopters in a year,” boasted the engineer.