The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tanzania’s Arusha Technical College (ATC) has promised to deliver a locally designed helicopter as its contribution to the overall industrialization efforts in Tanzania and on the continent. Plans are already in top gear to complete the project on schedule, meaning Tanzanian-made helicopters would take to the African skyline by 2018.
In the city of Arusha, 480 kilometres from Dar es Salaam, Abdi Mjema, director of the ATC helicopter project stated, “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.”
Project engineers initially designed the helicopter two months ago for agricultural needs and security-related functions like search-and-rescue operations and surveillance.
Since then, engineers have refitted the helicopter frame to carry at least two people. It is already 50 percent complete with the airframe, chassis, and mounted flat engine all ready. The gasoline-powered engine is produced by Volkswagen Germany. The motors are also made by Volkswagen and are the same model used in the United States’ “Robinson” helicopters.
A completed prototype is expected to fly in July this year. Mjema explained, “We are contacting Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) for the permission to fly the chopper for trials.”
While typical helicopters can fly as high as 8000 feet above the sea level, the ATC prototype would be built without a pressurised cabin, so its flying ceiling would have to be limited to about 400 feet. This is still quite significant considering that the city of Arusha already sits at a high altitude. ATC engineers have promised that subsequent models developed in the near future would fly higher.
Mjema believes that at least 20 safe and reasonably priced models can be delivered every year when full production commences in 2018.
BY MARK BABATUNDE