A couple days ago I wrote about the Sling 4-4-40 Challenge. I believe this to be of interest for a couple reasons. One is the fast build at an airshow … much like the intense interest surrounding EAA’s One Week Wonder (video) building of a CH-750 at Oshkosh. The other is my promise to offer coverage of the “New GA” or “LSA 4” planes — which are four seaters built by LSA companies using the technologies and techniques those companies know so well. South Africa’s Airplane Factory (TAF) Sling 4-4-40 challenge — in which a Sling 4 was built in 4 days by 40 workers — marked yet another milestone for the Sling manufacturer. What normally takes a kit builder 1,000 hours to complete, took place at the 2014 Africa Aerospace event in just four days. Build team leader and company boss Mike Blyth reported it took their team 854 hours from bare kit to flight, although painting and perhaps some interior finish will take a bit more time, a situation similar to the One Week Wonder project.
The team consisted of highly skilled workers, and even some marketing, admin and catering staff. (Good heavens! They let the marketing guys work on this … that’s brave of them!) TAF reported their team worked around the clock, with the day and night being split into 10 and 14 hour shifts, respectively. On Day 1, the center and rear fuselage were constructed and joined, the gear and undercarriage were assembled, and the engine was wired and made ready for installation. The handover to the night shift went seamlessly, TAF said, with a half hour handover period that saw 32 people working on the plane at once. The night crew then worked to get the fuselage on its wheels, engine and propeller mounted, and wings three quarters of the way complete. On Day 2, team members wired the engine and panel, the ballistic recovery parachute was installed, and the wings and empennage were nearly completed.
With 45 minutes to go on Day 3, Sling 4-4-40 was rolled out of its build area, both wings were attached, landing and strobe lights were connected and working, and the avionics were fired up. As the plane was wheeled out for a celebratory team photo (nearby), company co-founder James Pitman pointed out that it took him and Mike four years to build the first Sling. Day 4 involved a dual inspection and final paperwork. “Support from the crowds was fantastic and [all day] hordes of people crowded around the plane.” Mike Blyth turned the key and the Rotax 914UL powering Sling 4 “burst to life” amid cheers and applause from the crowds. “A Sling 4 was born in 4 days,” Mike declared!
The following day Sling 4 took center stage at the Africa Aerospace show. South Africa tail number ZU-TES was assigned to and affixed to the plane and it took to the skies. The plane performed flawlessly and put on a great show for all in attendance. The Sling was then flown back to The Airplane Factory’s home base and was received with warm cheers from the entire staff (video below). TAF observed the 4-4-40 Challenge was one of many accomplishments already achieved by company. Mike and James flew the Sling 2 prototype around the world in 2009 and the Sling 4 in 2011. Also in 2011, the Sling 5577 Challenge took place, in which 5 men from the factory and 5 women who never had touched a rivet gun built a Sling 2 in 7 days. The Airplane Factory USA, located in Torrance, California (KTOA), will have a Sling 4 available for demo flights starting early 2015.