One of the best things about going out to visit kit companies—aside from the airplanes of course—is meeting the people that make up our community and industry. I have spent time at so many kit companies that it is hard to visit with all the acquaintances I have made over the years when I get to AirVenture every year! Great folks, and every one of them with their own story – just like the builders and pilots who buy kits and airplanes!
Such is the case with my new friends from Sling Aircraft. When I visited South Africa a couple of weeks ago, it was to fly the new High Wing and see just how they build all of their kits and aircraft. But to accomplish those goals, I also had to learn about the backgrounds of the company founder and chief designer, Mike Blythe. Mike is a pilot and engineer with a serious bent, but also someone with a wry sense of humor that comes out when talking with his many team members or over a beer at an airport evening barbecue, or Braai as they call it.
Then there is another key man in the office, Chairman James Pittman, self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie and corporate lawyer—two things that don’t seem to go together until you meet James. James likes flying, climbing, cycling—if it can give you a rush, he’ll be there. That Braai I mentioned? James arrived by parachute after jumping out of a Trike a couple of thousand feet over the airport… at sunset.
With guys like this running the show, it was no surprise that when I showed up, they were chuckling over a little film they were making, riffing on the trailer for the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” movie. Not ones to be left out of the fun, they re-envisioned the quick-cut action trailer, envisioning themselves in the roll and having a lot of fun with their variety of airplanes, bicycles, and an airport local with cameras and special effects skills. I was privileged to join in the “practical effects” team when a little shaking of an airframe was required, but I don’t think my name is in the credits. Oh well…its all in the name of art!