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'A spectacular journey'

Sling Aircraft flew new model from South Africa to Oshkosh

Editor's note: This story was updated August 5 to correct a description of the route of flight. AOPA regrets the error.

Three Sling aircraft with a new high-wing design departed South Africa on July 10, with stops in Ghana, Angola, and Cape Verde before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados, and then on to the United States. Weather delayed their arrival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, though not the enthusiasm of pilots, crew, and customers.

  • The first of three high-wing Sling aircraft arrives at Wittman Regional Airport after a multi-day journey from the manufacturing facility outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The first of three high-wing Sling aircraft arrives at Wittman Regional Airport after a multi-day journey from the manufacturing facility outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A crowd gathered to watch three high-wing Sling aircraft arrive at AirVenture after a transoceanic journey from the manufacturing facility outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Airshow attendees following a a transoceanic flight of three high wing Sling Aircraft document the arrival to Wittman Regional Airport, July 27, 2022. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A transoceanic flight of three high-wing Sling aircraft arrive at Wittman Regional Airport after a multiday journey from South Africa during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin, July 27. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Pilot JP Schulze deplanes after a multiday transoceanic flight from South Africa. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Pilot Matt Cohen receives a surprise greeting from fiancée Jess Hawkridge after a multiday transoceanic flight of three high-wing Sling aircraft from the manufacturing facility in South Africa. Their rendezvous was kept secret until after Cohen landed. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Matt Cohen and fiancée Jess Hawkridge embrace upon Cohen's arrival after a multiday transoceanic flight of three Sling HW aircraft from South Africa
  • Ever alert for branding opportunities, Sling Aircraft created a logo for the journey to AirVenture. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A Sling Aircraft high-wing variant draws a crowd. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Sling Aircraft's Matt Liknaitzky smiles after greeting the voyagers on July 27. He probably was not smiling earlier in the week, when three low-wing Sling light sport aircraft were damaged after high winds swept through the area. Photo by David Tulis.

The voyage from the Johannesburg to the world's largest aviation event spanned about 72 flight hours, the arrival on July 27 a little later than originally hoped, though Sling Aircraft co-CEOs Matt Liknaitzky, Wayne Toddun, and Jean d’Assonville had plenty of time to make an impression at EAA AirVenture.

Sling Aircraft was founded in South Africa and previously produced and sold exclusively low-wing aircraft such as the Sling TSi. Pilot and new Sling owner Linda Sollars, who smiled as she climbed out of the Sling HW high-wing variant, N915HW, that she flew to the show, had been looking for something a little different.

“When Sling finally built the high wing, I recognized it instantly as my plane,” said Sollars, Sling’s first high-wing production customer. An airline pilot and A&P mechanic who previously owned a Cessna T210, Sollars has more time to fly GA than when she began her career and wants to spend it flying an airplane with a modern engine and avionics. Mike Blyth, the aircraft’s designer, flew with Sollars from South Africa to Barbados.

“Building it, flying it, and maintaining it are three different things. So, I built it, [Blyth] helped me really fine-tune the flying part, and now I gotta learn how to maintain it,” Sollars said with a laugh. “It’s a spectacular journey and just a crazy, great, group of people.”

Sling employees, pilots, and curious onlookers watched the flight of three land and taxi to the homebuilt aircraft parking, Liknaitzky and EAA volunteers marshalling the arrivals onto the grass where they were met with whistles, cheers, and applause. As soon as the engines shut down, the pilots were rushed by family, friends, and photographers.

The second aircraft was piloted by one of Sling’s directors and partners James Pitman, and his friend, Matt Cohen, a recently certificated private pilot who began the trip with just about 25 hours in his logbook. Cohen is paraplegic, and the aircraft was equipped with hand controls.

The third aircraft is in the tailwheel configuration, and piloted by JP Schulze, known on social media as the Candourist. Schulze plans to continue from Oshkosh and fly around the world.

The two nosewheel Rotax-powered Slings are on display at Sling Island; Schulze’s will be stationed at the Rotax tent.

Sling operates a flight school and aircraft distribution center we recently visited in Torrance, California.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alicia Herron

Publications Content Producer
Publications Content Producer Alicia Herron joined AOPA in 2018. She is a multiengine-rated commercial pilot with advanced ground and instrument flight instructor certificates. She is based in Los Angeles and enjoys tailwheel flying best.
Topics: EAA AirVenture, Single-Engine Piston

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