Cambodian Man Couldn’t Fly But Built A Plane From YouTube
By Lorraine Harding
This is an inspirational story of one man who would not take no for an answer to fulfil his dream of flying.
Paen Long had always dreamt of soaring with the birds one day and could see himself looking down at the land below… however, there was only one problem – he could not fly, nor did he have a plane.
But that did not stop this determined young man and despite all odds, he found a way to break through the barriers, teaching himself everything he needed to know.
He did this by watching videos on YouTube…despite the fact that he could not even speak English.
Paen’s all consuming passion for flying machines, sprouted at the tender age of 6 years old when he saw a helicopter overhead in the early 1990’s. Suddenly smoke began to billow out from the craft and it fell to the ground near his home town in Svay Rieng province. This sparked something inside Paen and ever since that time, he wanted to take up the challenge to fly through the sky himself.
Because of economic circumstances, Paen dropped out of school in the 5th grade to become a long haul truck driver at the age of 12. Then later, he furthered his study and trained as a car mechanic, which taught him a great deal in understanding the mechanics of an airplane.
Despite actually not knowing how to build one – this did not stop Paen then he decided it was time to start construction. Teaching himself how to use the internet and finding YouTube videos to gain his knowledge, he started to piece his plane together.
“I have spent the last 5 years watching videos and have watched the pictures 10 or 20 times to make sure I understood,” Mr Long explains in Cambodian.
He now owns a mechanical repair shop but all his savings of $10,000 and most of his spare time, has gone to building his dream.
Unable to use conventional materials that would normally go into such a project, he had to use what was available – so Paen started to recycle.
The seat for the pilot is a plastic chair with sawn off legs, the body and wings made from gasoline barrels, while a car dashboard served as a control panel.
After taking a year to build his first prototype, the craft ended up having a 5.5 meter (18 foot) wing span and weighed more than 400 kilograms.
His wife, Ing Muy Heng knew nothing of Paen obsession until after they were married, and only when he started to have a fixation with air crafts. Then she saw the day come when her husband was about to embark on his crazy dream and she feared the worst – especially as they had a young family.
On the 8th of March 2017, the big day arrived and everyone was nervous – but Paen believed he could do this. He took a couple of test runs to see if his plane stood up mechanically and structurally.
Much to his relief, it did – and he was ready to take off on his maiden flight.
The aircraft sat rumbling on the makeshift runway, which is only a dirt track that cut in between rice fields nearby. Paen prepared himself for the moment he had waited for all of his life.
Taking a deep breath, the patchwork craft constructed from recycled material begins to move forward – it rattles down the runway building up speed as she goes.
Faster and faster she shakes, while the beast of a plane lifted herself up from the ground with a mighty heave. Adrenaline burst through Paen’s veins as the big girl climbed higher and higher up into the sky.
He is in the air!
Paen feels the exhilaration flow through him – this is what he saw in his mind in all those years of dreaming.
Using the knowledge that he had gained on YouTube, he glides for about 50 meters through the sky and soaking up every moment.
Suddenly something happened as the hulking girl chokes violently.
“It was like a car that was broken,” Paen describes and she starts to fall down toward the ground. He frantically tries to correct her by pulling on the throttle to steady her nose… it doesn’t work as he battles to pull her upward.
She is headed straight toward the earth at a climbing speed – all Paen could do is close his eyes and pray.
With a sickening thud, his craft crashed into the ground and the propeller snapped with a bone breaking crunch.
Paen opens his eyes and realizes that somehow he is alive. Checking himself over – he in remarkably good shape.
Only battered and bruised in what some would consider a remarkable escape – Paen mind instantly starts to churn and trying to figure out – what went wrong?
Undaunted by the experience and much to his wife Ing’s horror, he quickly decided to start again. Many of the local villages think he is crazy, particularly as he has a young family – and mad to tempt fate a second time.
Although the scars we not physical, the crash had taken an emotional toll on Paen and soon the final straw came when two strangers pulled up beside him in a new Lexus. They wound down the window, handed him a $10 note – telling Paen this was for his funeral.
This hit him deeply and he began to fall into an alcohol fuelled depression, torn inside and asking questions. His wife Ing was worried – she knew she was losing the man she had married and had to do something help him. Seeing what he had already achieved, she soon became his biggest supporter and decided to help with his dream, making him a promise. Ing would be by his side and pledged that they would put 30% of their income each week towards their new plane.
Grateful for his wife’s support and belief, Paen picked himself up again, while his depression is replaced with enthusiasm.
He begins to make plans for a second air craft but first, he has to figure out where he went wrong.
In his search, he comes across another YouTube clip – and this lights a spark within him; then he quickly gets back to work building his new craft…this time learning from his mistakes.
He decided to construct a smaller plane that he estimates will cost ¼ of the original money and designed so that the craft could take off from the water.
Paen and Ing plan to get their seaplane transported some 20 kilometers away by truck and launch it on the Waiko River. There is a good logic behind his reasoning and explains that (if he crashed) “It would not be so dangerous.”
Capturing the media attention, offers for assistance have started to come in for Paen, including one from a company in Bangkok, Thailand. They have suggested Paen have an all-expenses paid training session with their certified school, giving him a class in basic flight theory. They have even offered him a test run in a state-of-the-art flight simulator, to get the feel of flying in a life-like setting.
The General Manager Mr. John Smith explains, “It is to teach Mr Long a few fundamentals to prevent him from hurting himself. If nothing else, it gives him the experience of a lifetime and stimulate his imagination.” Mr. Smith knows all too well Paen passion because he started building and selling his own planes before becoming a pilot.
There are many people here willing to assist him he goes on to say “And their imaginations are tickled by Mr. Long and they are prepared to give him their time.”
As Paen continues to build his dream – we all wish him the best of luck in his quest…and hope he takes up the offer.