Asmelash Zerefu is a 35-year-old Ethiopian who fell in love with airplanes at a very young age. After suffering countless of setbacks in his quest to become a pilot, Zerefu decides to make things happen his own way.
Dealing with rejection
“That was the turning point. That was when I decided to build my own airplane in order to fulfil my lifelong dream of flight. This was in 2001.”
Zerefu spent more than 10 years learning about aeronautics. He read countless of FAA maintenance books, spent hours on the internet and watched several YouTube videos. After 10 years of efforts, he finally started building his own airplane. The young man had the ambition to build Ethiopia’s first home-built aircraft. Zerefu sourced his components locally. He used an old Suzuki motorcycle to make his own landing gear and recycled the engine of a Volkswagen Beetle.
“I collected from garages and workshops, and Merkato – which is Africa’s largest market – in Addis Ababa. I used first and second-hand materials to build my aircraft.”
A dream come true
Zerefu called his two-seat, open-tandem parasol light aircraft airplane K-750 A. The plane, that cost Zerefu about $7500, is designed to fly “slow and low.”
“I call it the K-570A. K representing my mother’s initial of her name, Kiros, and 570 signifying the number of days it took me to complete my aircraft. The A is for Aircraft.”
The process was not easy, but Zerefu persevered. He faced criticism from people and was confronted to financial hardship. On its maiden flight, the airplane had an accident.
“People surrounding me considered me mad, and it took many trials and errors to build it. Financial problems were another limitation in making my African aviation innovation possible. But despite those difficulties and obstacles I am close to fulfilling my dream.”
It took hard work to achieve success, but the sacrifice bore its fruit. In addition to building his own plane, Zerefu was offered a scholarship to the Inholland University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands to study Aeronautical Engineering.