Dowa-(MaraviPost): When Felix Kambwiri, a Malawian and skillful man made headlines in the country’s local press and social media that he developed a helicopter, some quarter of the society questioned his ability even till now despite showcasing his work.
Kambwiri ability to produce the same object the way Wright Brothers did over hundred years ago in 1903, by making the first three-axis control aero plane that really did fly, it’s a true testimony that everything possible with anybody.
History will always repeat itself. Now Kambwiri has joined other Malawians innovators including Patrick Kamkwamba who developed a wind mill that his talent has seen in the corridors of white man universities to deepen his charisma in manufacturing industry.
It is this reason, The Maravi Post (MP) reporter, Lloyd M’bwana caught up with Kambwiri during this year’s Lilongwe Tedx, a national and global platform of innovators where he showcased, exhibited and made moving speech highly of his work to the world that even Malawi can do big in the manufacturing industry.
Through this interview, Kambwiri takes us how the idea of developing a helicopter revolves, the general public reaction and what he intends to achieve in life. Believe or not, here is a rare innovator of our time, Felix Kambwiri. Excerpts:
MP: You are an innovator of our time, Mr. Felix Kambwiri. Can you tell us and our readers briefly, who you are?
Kambwiri: Wow, thanks for such an accolade. I am a Malawian man from Namwiri Village at Gobede in the central district of Dowa but currently playing my tread of welding at Madisi in the same district.
I am a family man with a wife and children, and aged 45 years. In welding, I do make car jerks and oxcarts among others.
MP: How did the idea of developing a helicopter start in you, bearing in mind you don’t have any formal qualification on this?
Kambwiri: The idea came into being when I was 13 years old while in primary school which was enhanced through watching action movies. I used to watch war movies way back whereas aero plains especially helicopter was much used in the movies. So, I happened to be addicted to these types of movies focusing on the use of helicopters. This also instilled the desire to develop my own helicopter in future.
Even, when the first head of state, Dr. Hasting Kamuzu Banda visited our area for crop inspection who landed using the helicopter and that also instilled further my quest for having my own aero plan of the same nature. And this kept bothering me on how soon the dream will come true as I looked into the composition of the helicopter with a kin interest which was easy to fly and portable.
When I bought a motor bike in 2014, the idea of making a helicopter revived eventually, I studied the bikes make up then transferred the learnt skills into helicopter development which I launched using motor bikes spare parts and materials including its engine.
MP: With due respect, how feasible is your helicopter and is this really worthy for the nation to be cerebrating?
Kambwiri: Why not? It’s with me right here. Forget about bad things people are saying on my innovation. Currently, the helicopter can’t fly because the engine was removed from its basement as isn’t now fit for flying. I actually tested the helicopter inside my workshop as authorities feared some security who advised me to work thoroughly on the project and alert them when am done for further guidelines.
MP: Where were you getting the material for this helicopter and how sure were you that your materials being sourced suit the making?
Kambwiri: Actually with my work in welding, I didn’t find it difficult to fix and match materials for coming up with a feasible object. I buy the manufacturing parts at Kanengo industrial area at same time when purchasing other materials for oxcart including fibre which is important component for an aero plain, plastic sheets and aluminum sheets and among others.
MP: How long did it take you to finish making this helicopter?
Kambwiri: As stated early they actually work of making the helicopter started in 2014, I didn’t use any technical theory but rather the skills and talent tapped from welding as the motor bike was used as shadow of what an aero plan can operate. Setting the body and engine started in November 2015 and had final touches in January 2016 and tested the helicopter between February and March this year.
MP: How much has it (in terms of costs) taken you to make the helicopters?
Kambwiri: To be frank with you, about MK680, 000.00 (about US$ 680) has so far being used but more money is still needed as I want to purchase other suitable materials including new engine.
MP: After you came out to the public with this helicopter, some quarter of the society linked your innovation to witchcraft. How true is this? Are people reading too much on your ability?
Kambwiri: Hahaha (laughs). This is indeed a laughing matter. Even my kinsmen called me all sorts of names saying I have gone mad others linked my work with witchcraft which isn’t true at all. But I still stand on fit of dreams to achieve great things in this life for my country by coming up with own helicopter. Even, the same story happened to Noah in the bible when his own people castigated him over his works which eventually later realized how important the innovation was for them. This is the same story happening to me now.
MP: How related are you with the department of aviation regarding to your innovation?
Kambwiri: Authorities attitude towards my work is very encouraging.
Actually, when they heard about this work, one of them called me on mobile phone with encouragement messages and advised me to seek more support from them when making final touches who also promised to provide technical know-how on helicopter flying and landing. This has encouraged me to go further with my dreams.
MP: How far do you want to go up with your education?
Kambwiri: Honestly, I wish I could be enrolled in primary school despite my old age because I know through education my skill might be blended further as I will be able to produce better things than this.
Currently, I have hired someone for mentoring me in English speaking before am enrolled into secondary school by end of this year.
MP: How far do you want to reach with this innovation and what next after this?
Kambwiri: What I want actually it’s to have my own helicopter showing the world that a Malawian can make it big internationally in the manufacturing industry and I want to make better aero plans than this with the support from experts for the development of the country.
MP: Any message to the general public of your capability towards this innovation you have produced?
Kambwiri: The message is that as a nation, let’s come out with various innovations, talents where others can uplift our abilities for the growth of this nation. We need to focus on Malawi’s future that generation to come must embrace what we are currently doing now.
MP: Wishing you well towards achieving your dreams.
Kambwiri: Thank you very much, Maravi Post for providing a platform where the world will see how innovative Malawians are with expectation that will support my project.