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Flying High:
The Young Iraqi Kurdish Aviator Getting Dreams Off The Ground

Saman Omer
In Iraqi Kurdistan, one local is waiting for the air embargo to be lifted – so he can fly in engine parts and lift off in the latest of his home-made planes.
25.01.2018  |  Sulaymaniyah

In Iraqi Kurdistan a lot of folks know about Ari Kamal’s planes. The 28-year-old has a talent for constructing his own aircraft and recently he even built a light plane, one that can carry up to four passengers, according to the kitset design, the STOL-CH 750, developed by a US-based company, Zenith.

However, he has not been able to actually test its flying capabilities yet because of the flight ban in the semi-autonomous northern region right now. At the moment, only Iraqi planes may land at the two international airports in Iraqi Kurdistan; this ban will continue until the federal and regional government reach some kind of agreement over control of the borders here.

Kamal’s planes are so good that local military men asked if they could use the remote fliers in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Kamal can’t get permission to fly his plane nor can he import the parts he needs to complete work on it, including an engine.

“Although I made 95 percent of the parts myself, I still need an engine,” Kamal told NIQASH. “I have to get this from outside the country.”

Kamal believes his plane should be able to fly around one kilometre above the ground and stay in the air for five hours, when he is finally able to get it off the ground.

After seeing drones and other remotely piloted flying machines at a Paris air show four years ago, Kamal decided he too could join in. He returned home and spent a lot of time doing research online. It took him several trials, but he was eventually able to fly one of his planes. Since then he has made around 120 aircraft of various kinds, he says.

Most of them are made from fibreglass and each of the small ones costs him between US$200 and US$500 to make – he uses the money he made working in construction to build his planes. The engines in his drones are also usually adapted from other equipment.

In fact, Kamal’s planes are so good that local military men who heard about them asked if they could use the remote fliers in the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State. They thought the drones could be used to carry surveillance equipment or potentially even weapons. But Kamal refused as the requests were all unofficial. 

In the end, Kamal started a new group he named Peshmerga Skies – peshmerga is the local name for the Iraqi Kurdish military. Kamal had big plans: He thought that maybe he could get funding to open a factory to make small planes and then Iraqi Kurdish soldiers could be trained to use them for military purposes.

“Unfortunately, the local government put more obstacles in our way than gave assistance, so the project has never really become important,” explains Bafel Othman, a member of the Peshmerga Skies group.

For the time being, Kamal must be satisfied with working on his kitset light plane. He says that if he can get it flying he’d like to take it as high as possible and then parachute out. Until then though the budding aviator simply has to wait for the air embargo on Iraqi Kurdistan to be lifted.

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