Beating the odds—Homemade Malawi helicopter

It has never taken off, and could well be a death trap, but a homemade helicopter built in Malawi is drawing crowds captivated by its creator’s determination to succeed against all the odds.

Hope is sky high for homemade Malawi helicopter by Felix Kambwiri

Hope is sky high for homemade Malawi helicopter by Felix Kambwiri

Felix Kambwiri, 45, has spent the last four months constructing his dream machine out of scrap metal and fibreglass in his garage in the village of Gobede, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of the capital Lilongwe.

Clambering inside the one-seater cockpit, he swings the door closed, turns the key, pumps the pedals, and the 125-cc secondhand engine roars into life as orange lights flash impressively.

The rotor blades, which nearly touch the workshop’s walls, increase to a furious speed, as the whole chassis starts to shake violently—but take-off remains elusive.

“I would like just to fly for even five minutes to show that I am serious about this and that it is not a joke. This helicopter can fly,” Kambwiri, a professional welder, told news agency AFP.

“Every day I receive many curious visitors who have heard about me.”

Kambwiri built the helicopter to his own design after failing to find any books to help fulfil his life’s passion.

But he has been warned that he should not undertake any test flights until the civil aviation authorities have completed safety checks.

“Police regularly come here to monitor progress and make sure I don’t fly without permission,” he explained, adding that he hopes to be airborne by June.

“I can understand their concern is about my safety, and that of people who might come in their hundreds on the day I fly the helicopter.

“I will not take risks. I will wait until I am ready. I cannot allow anyone to take the risk for fear of an accident.”

The helicopter is painted white with red and blue stripes, and has plastic windows, landing skids and a second rotor blade on its tail.

Kambwiri, who left school aged 16, has spent about $350 on the project, including $100 on its converted motorbike engine, which he hopes to upgrade if a donor comes forward with extra funds.

“Although I did not go far with school, I have tried my best. I want to show the world that we Malawians can do something and are intelligent,” he said.

“Some people coming here say I have gone mad, that this helicopter will kill me, or cannot fly because I am not educated.

“My imagination about building a helicopter grew when I began welding as a job,” said the former tailor and radio repairman.

Banda flying around

Among those who come to inspect progress are students from the local school who peer into the workshop as Kambwiri and his team of assistants, including an electrician, tinker with wiring.

His ambitious plan dates back to when he was a young boy and saw then president Hastings Kamuzu Banda flying around the country for campaign rallies and to visit remote villages.

Kambwiri, married and father of seven children, also credits his enthusiasm for flight to watching war movies and listening to radio programmes.

Despite initial concerns, Kambwiri’s wife Annes said she backs his efforts.

“I was frightened when I first heard that my husband was developing a helicopter because he had never done it before,” she told AFP.

“Later I accepted it, because everything is possible through God.”- AFP

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Davie phiri
Guest
Davie phiri
6 months 15 days ago

This real science not mbofyombofyo

Bonnex Chiwete
Guest
Bonnex Chiwete
6 months 16 days ago

I would predge govt of Mw to give a hand in order to promote his accomplishments. Mw govt should be proud to have people like Mr Kambwiri who can put it on the world map.

Please engage solders (Army and Police) to provide technical advice to make it real.

Markmarkc
Guest
6 months 16 days ago

Tizabwera tsiku loyesalo!tizawonerere kuuluka ndi kugwa kwanu bwana!kkkkk

Amuna a Queen
Guest
6 months 17 days ago

A fire nao ayenera kudzakhalapo poyesapo

mfitizagonja
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mfitizagonja
6 months 17 days ago

kkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! go on mr kambwiri bola osakupheni.

star
Guest
star
6 months 18 days ago

can s motor bike engine fly a helicopter

Gobede Kauma
Guest
6 months 18 days ago

Mwana mngwanga uyu

PRINCE ARKIE
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PRINCE ARKIE
6 months 18 days ago

Osadandaula a Kambwiri, Ineyo ndili kakaka pambuyo panu. For I have an art of creating a wireless connection by using manmade materials, am in! you are soon going to see a Malawi full of highly skilled Village scientists! Mukuganiza ife umphawi umatisangalatsa eti? mumafuna tidzikamba zainu? Ansanjenu bakhalani tilibe nanu ntchito…mukuganiza ngati ndegeyi siidzauuluka??? olo chitakhala chaka chamawa komatu ife zitikhudza ndipo tiiulutsa ndegeyi. Muona!!!!!!!

Amuna a Queen
Guest
6 months 18 days ago

Thats great Kambwiri,Malawians needs such men ,Exposuring the strength of God to the development of the Nation.Legalise it !!

Vin Mongu
Guest
Vin Mongu
6 months 18 days ago
While agree with you Zondiwe, what I disagree with is the failure to launch innovation parks in malawi. where is polytechnic inn all this and where is national research council or teveta in this? one has an idea whihc he is failing to move forward — give him a push rather than pull him down. what did we do with a mulanje boy who did a community radio station — risk arrest until Gospel put him to school. in karonga someone put up a electricity scheme what did Govt do intellegently ZERO. What is happening is you see education science… Read more »
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