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We sold our belongings to raise N3.5m used to build aircraft — Four Kwara secondary school leavers

Four senior secondary school leavers from Ilorin West Local Government Area of Kwara State constructed a prototype of an aircraft which was displayed in Ilorin on October 1, 2020, Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary Day.

The youths are Jimoh Abdulfatai, Abdulateef Hanafi, Musa Aliu and Jamiu Abass. Abdulfatai, who spoke on their behalf, tells PUNCH about the aircraft which has not been flown yet and the challenges ahead

you and Abdulateef Hanafi, Musa Aliu and Jamiu Abass built an aircraft, what was behind the idea?

The idea had been with me since I was young. I leave around the airport and everything that flies, including birds fascinate me. So, I developed interest in constructing an aircraft. I was curious to understand how airplanes are able to fly, what makes it stable in the sky and other challenges relating to its construction. The idea to construct a prototype of an aircraft did not come from one person; four of us put our knowledge and resources together to build it.

What educational qualifications do you all have?

We have West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and National Examination Council examination certificates. But we have basic knowledge of what we embarked on.

How did the four of you come together?

I have a younger brother I have been working with. We started the design using cartons and foam. Later, we constructed one that can accommodate two people. Then I discovered someone doing a similar thing. I saw him building a smaller aircraft and when I discussed with him, I discovered that his idea was similar to what I was doing, so we decided to put heads and resources together. Later, we met the third person and we talked to him to let us share knowledge because I believed that if we worked together, we would produce a better aircraft.  Then we found the fourth person.

Are the four of you living in the same area?

No, circumstances brought us together. For instance, I live in the Airport area; one of us stays in the Alapata area, another person lives in Kuntu, while the fourth person lives in the Checking Point area. We all live in different parts of Ilorin; we found one another through information given by people who told us about others doing something similar to what we were doing.  That was how we were able to build the prototype of the aircraft. This is the ninth one that we made. When we completed the ninth one, we felt satisfied that we had done something tangible.

After completing it, we made contact with some politicians to link us with the government so that we would get approval for the project. But some of them were afraid to do that because they felt the project would require huge capital investment.

When did you start the construction of the prototype of the aircraft?

We started the process of constructing this particular one about three years ago. We decided to display it for people to see on Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary.

How much did it cost you?

It cost us about N3.5m. We contributed the money. For example, I had a motorcycle which I used for commercial purposes (Okada) in Ilorin, I sold it to buy the materials used in building the aircraft. Others also had belongings that they sold. We contributed money to make the project a reality.

How did you get the materials used in building the aircraft?

We got the materials locally. We got the plate from Surulere in Ilorin, we bought pipes and other materials. We used a Volkswagen 1200 engine to power the aircraft.

Can the aircraft fly?

Yes, it can fly. It has all the components of a normal aircraft such as propellers, wings, tail, flying gear, etc. Although we have not tested this one, the smaller one we built was tested. We built a drone with which we made some calculations, so we did not only base the construction on assumption. We did a lot of calculations; we considered balance and weight because it would not move without balance, it has to balance in the air. The prototype we are working on can only take two passengers; it can only taxi with the gear control.

Have you met with the governor?

No, we have not been able to see him. We have gone to the Government House to book an appointment to see the governor. They advised us to write a letter to book an appointment which we have done. We are still waiting for a reply from the government.

We have also taken the prototype to the Nigeria Air Force base on Offa Garage Road. This was done on the instructions of the Chief of Air Staff who instructed the officers here to invite us after watching the display of the aircraft on the Nigerian Television Authority. We went there and the Air Force officers interviewed us. We have not heard anything from the Chief of Air Staff, but they told us that he would send for us.

What would you tell the governor if you are able to meet him?

If we meet the governor, we will brief him on our efforts to construct an aircraft and tell him to assist us to secure a permit and licence to fly the aircraft because we want the project to be completed and we want the aircraft to fly. We don’t want it to be an abandoned project because we are not doing it for the sake of doing something.

We will also tell him to assist us in our educational pursuit. We want to go to university; we are from poor backgrounds and we want the government to assist us by sponsoring us to have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering so as to have more knowledge in the construction of aircraft. We also want the government to sponsor us to visit a place where aircraft is manufactured so that we will have more knowledge. We want this project to come to fruition. So, we want the government to see it through to that level and we will be happy if our governor can do that for us.

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