Hendrick Chebanga’s creation is enough to make criminals stop in their tracks.
The son of a carpenter from Zimbabwe has become the talk of Dilopye village, near Hammanskraal in Gauteng, earning himself the alias “helicopter man”.
Using corrugated iron sheets and other scrap, Chebanga, 30, built a replica police helicopter that at first glance so closely resembles the real thing that it’s enough to send chills down the spine of hardened criminals.
“I have always been fascinated by engineering and I used to make pocket money by building toy wire cars for my friends. My dream was to study engineering but my parents did not have money so I packed my bags and headed for South Africa after matriculating in 2005,” said Chebanga.
He then started building and selling toy cars using corrugated iron, which enabled him to survive, but his dreams were too big for toys so he started designing a helicopter.
Working 12 hours a day for eight months in the backyard of his shack, Chebanga produced a 1.5m-high helicopter painted in blue and white police colours and complete with the SAPS insignia on the front.
For the instrument panel he used discarded speedometers and a telephone resembles a radio to make the cockpit look real.
“I even installed a blue light and a police siren,” he said.
At the end of each month Chebanga pulls the helicopter on a trailer and tows it to the Soshanguve to Hammanskraal main road, where he puts it on display and allows people to take photographs.
The cash he raises from his exhibit has been earmarked for the purchase of an engine, which he said would cost him about R6000.
He said his prototype helicopter was not robust enough to fly but once he had raised enough money to buy an engine he would build an airworthy version.
“The helicopter was on display at the Pretoria West police college. I had to bring it back because people were complaining, saying they wanted their helicopter here,” said Chebannga.