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Kurdish Aviator Builds Plane, Flies Over Home Town

A STOL CH 701 by Zenith Aircraft Company

After 19 years of experimenting - and some help from his local government - a Kurdish man has realized his childhood dream. Nareeman Anwar Saleh has flown his home-built airplane over his home town of Irbil.

On a dusty, windswept runway, a small yellow and black airplane lifts into the sky. At the controls is Nareeman Anwar Saleh, and for him, this is no ordinary flight. This flight is the culmination of months of work, several unsuccessful attempts and an indefatigable dream.

Saleh, a 33-year-old mechanic who works on advanced car computer systems, fell in love with airplanes as a small boy. As a 14-year-old he built a radio controlled model plane, but that was not enough to satisfy his longing. He continued to work and finally realized his dream of flying his own airplane over his home town of Irbil in northern Iraq.

Dream fulfilled

Saleh says it was a dream that took nearly two decades to fulfill. "Children always dream of airplanes and love to see planes and I was one of those children," he said. "Since my early childhood I dreamt about planes and I endeavored to make this dream come true and it took me almost 19 years of hard work to fly a plane."

But Saleh needed some help to realize his dream. The local Kurdish government and the governor of Irbil city helped him to enroll in aviation courses in China in 2006. Saleh took flying lessons there and received basic instruction in aeronautics. When he returned home in 2006, Saleh built four aircraft, but he says his first three attempts were beset by problems.

"I built a number of planes but each one had some sort of problem," said Saleh. "In the first plane there was an error in the CG [Centre of Gravity] while in the second the problem was the centre of pressure and in the third it was the excessive weight. But I managed to solve all the errors in the fourth plane and succeeded in flying in the Kurdistan sky."

His local governor also helped Saleh import the engine and propeller of the plane from Germany. Other parts came from France and Ukraine. But the hard work and the passion came from Saleh and his team.

The airplane itself is called a STOL CH 701 - short for "short-take-off-and-landing" - and is manufactured by Zenith Aircraft Company in the U.S. city of Mexico, Missouri. Saleh purchased the schematics for the plane and built his aircraft from scratch. Roger Dubbert is with Zenith Air and he says the STOL CH 701 has a variety of uses.

"Customers in the United States just use it for pleasure, but we do have the 701 used in missionary work in Central America and South America. We have even a 701 used in Tanzania to stop the poaching for elephants. So it's used all over the world for different operations," he said.

Saleh says that his plane - called the NAZ 82 - can be used for spraying crops, for tourism and for police work. Nareeman Anwar Saleh has another dream now - to open his own school to teach other people to fly. He also hopes to open his own factory so others can experience the joy of building and flying their own aircraft.