Seven-year-old boy who adores Elon Musk is sensation on Ugandan aviation scene
(This December 24th story corrects the type of Bombardier aircraft in the seventh paragraph.)
By Elias Biryabarema
ENTEBBE, Uganda (Reuters) - A 7-year-old Ugandan boy has become a sensation in his country as he demonstrates precocious aircraft knowledge and aspiring flying skills.
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Graham Shema has been interviewed on local television and his name is prefixed with "Captain" in newspapers and social media. The German ambassador and the country's transport minister invited him to meetings.
As a lover of math and science, the student flew three times as a trainee on a Cessna 172.
He says he wants to be a pilot and astronaut and one day travel to Mars. "My role model is Elon Musk," said the boy. A pilot's white shirt and black pants hugged his tiny body.
"I like Elon Musk because I want to learn about space with him, go into space with him and also get a handshake."
Musk founded SpaceX, and the private rocket company recently launched two Americans into orbit, hoping to one day send humans to Mars.
One morning at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda, his instructor asked him to explain how the engines worked in a Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft parked on the tarmac.
With his voice struggling to rise above the roar of an airplane's running engines, Shema rattled off the answer: "The inlet pipes suck in air and inject it into the compressor, the compressor squeezes it with the fans afterwards he pushed them with the fans. It's getting hot, "said Shema, gesturing playfully and going into detail about how an engine generates thrust.
Shema's curiosity about the flight was piqued by a freak incident.
When he was 3 years old, a police helicopter fell so low that it blew off the roof of his grandmother's house on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, while he was playing outside.
"It triggered something in his head," said his mother, travel agent Shamim Mwanaisha, 29. Her son began to bombard her with endless questions about how airplanes work, she said.
Last year she contacted a local aviation academy and Shema started taking home lessons in airplane parts and aviation vocabulary. After five months of course work, Mwanaisha paid for her son's practical flight lessons.
"I felt like a bird soaring," Shema said of his first flight. He had never flown on an airplane before.
He flew as co-pilot three times between January and March before the pandemic closed his practice.
Since then he has focused on aviation theory and delves into aviation and space exploration videos on his virtual reality viewer.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Maggie Fick and Lisa Shumaker)
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