Visitors of the Syrian pavilion at Damascus International Fair would have something interesting to see. On the small green lawn leading to the pavilion, a light plane featuring the national Syrian Arab Republic flag is perching.
What is so special about this small plane?
Sahab 73 (the name given to the plane) is totally Syrian-made.
This is indeed an extra-ordinary accomplishment achieved despite the harsh years of the war, the suffocating economic sanctions and the never-ending hostile media bombardment raining us along with the international public opinion about Syria. The plane is fully designed and manufactured by Syrian hands and by qualified Syrian engineers and technicians, without any foreign assistance. A team of qualified Syrian engineers and technicians embarked on this ambitious project in 2008, under the sponsorship of the Higher Institute for Applied Science and Technology (HIAST).
Joining the team were HIAST graduates and a host of qualified engineers and technicians mainly from Damascus University and the Assad Academy.
The two-seat plane is designed basically for pilot training. But it can also be used for several other functions as all other light planes around the world such as tourism, sports, road surveillance, border surveillance and several other usages. Unlike pilotless drones, this small plane would be boarded by a pilot and an assistant. That is why safety standards were given utmost attention, team members told the local radio Sham FM.
Before being put on display, the plane was properly tested to make sure that it meets observed safety and performance standards. It may fly for a period of one hour to one hour and a half, bearing in mind that training flights rarely take more than 40 minutes.
Its maximal speed is 200 km per hour. It may ascend as high as 4000 meters and can keep flying for about 180 km. More improvements can be added to upgrade the specifications and the features, the team members said.
This plane is unique in its design. There is no prototype model being copied here. However, it might fall within the same category of the Canadian Zodiac, they said.
About the choice of the name, the team members said: “During the initial stage of testing, we saw her sliding swiftly and peacefully just as a small white cloud. That is why we decided to name her “Sahab” (the Arabic name of the cloud), in the hope that rain would follow.
As members of the team, we wanted to show that Syrians enjoy world-class scientific, engineering and technical qualifications. But it was no easy job. We have encountered several difficulties and we have surmounted these difficulties.
As to why the number 73 was added, the team members answered without hesitation: “The year 1973 was the year of victory, no doubt about it.”
The team members hope that Damascus International Fair would open up a new window of opportunities for them to go ahead with their project and come up with more advanced designs and models should enough financing and investment opportunities were provided.
With a price of less than a luxury car, the plane is considered as cost-effective and members of the team are looking for more support from the Syrian State. They also hope that aviation clubs would once again be available in major Syrian towns.
Translated into English from a brief report published by the local Syrian radio Sham FM