Amol Yadav, a pilot with Jet Airways, spent six years building a six-seater aircraft in a house he shares with 19 family members.
Among a plethora of innovation marvels at the Make in India Week, commencing this evening at the Bandra Kurla Complex, is a six-seater aircraft entirely assembled in a three-BHK flat in Charkop, Kandivali (W).
That the product is no fly-by-night enterprise is certified by none other than the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which has given the plane the display space alongside some of its own flying machines at Narendra Modi's pet event that is hoping to earn investment to the tune of Rs 4.6 lakh crore.
The plane's maker is Amol Yadav, a 40-year-old deputy chief pilot with Jet Airways, whose obsession with aircraft began in school, found wings during a year-long flying training course in the US, and materialised piece-bypiece over a period of six years in his home in Sukant Society, which he shares with 19 of his family members.
"The terrace attached to our flat is spread over 1,600 sq ft, and has been my workshop. I have been living on the terrace for the last six years," he said. Yadav, an alumni of Patkar College in Goregaon, was inspired to try his hand at assembling planes after he saw flying enthusiasts in the US purchasing phased-out planes and turning them into customised six or 12-seater flying machines.
"I went to the US for training in 1995, and saw a lot of people in the US, middleclass families, assembling used planes to create customised flying machines. I was inspired to do the same in India, and the more I struggled, the more I got obsessed with singlehandedly assembling a plane right here in my home," he said.
Egged on by a supportive family ("My parents chipped in financially, the uncles and the aunts put up with the equipment lying all over the house, and the wife never complained about the noise that went on every night for the last six years"), Yadav has created a plane that can soar up to 13,000 ft at 1,500 ft per minute, and cover a distance of 2,000 km at the top speed of 185 nautical miles per hour.
He didn't want to reveal the exact amount spent on building the plane, but conceded that it cost him a "few crores". "I started building this plane in 2009, and finished work only a few months ago. The plane can accommodate five passengers, and weighs 1,450 kg," Yadav said.
Like all aircraft, Yadav's plane is made of aluminium. It measures 10-fteight-inches in height, and was put together under the guidance of Air Marshal Murali Sundaram, and an advisory panel of the IIT-B professors, under the banner of Thrust Aircraft Company, a firm launched by Yadav. He has applied to the aviation regulator DGCA for permissions to test the aircraft - named TAC 003 - but is yet to hear from them.
Apart from the lack of space and paucity of funds, Yadav had to learn to ignore doubters: the so-called wellwishers and friends who ridiculed him for attempting to build a plane in a congested house. "A few of them thought I had lost my mind. I would only talk about planes. They thought I was crazy to be attempting to build one at home," he said.
The struggle could have easily turned bitter. His first effort, in 1998, and the subsequent one in 2001, did not yield the desired results. "I'm working to build a plane for the last 17 years, considering I started assembling my first plane in 1998. Searching for equipment, arranging the money, and the sheer toil... I have lost count of the sleepless nights," he said.
The biggest challenge was the procurement of the basics: the engine and the navigation system. The family raised money by selling off ancestral jewellery to import the customised piston engine from the US. It is a 350-horse power engine manufactured by Proformance Unlimited, and Yadavs plane falls in the category of the single-engine land air plane (which means it cannot fly over water).
He also had to import the navigational suite -- which is an advanced touch-screen navigation technology - from America. "I dream of playing a part in setting up the Indian domestic air connectivity on the lines of America and Europe. After nearly seven decades of Independence, why are we still not able to build aircraft?" Yadav asked.
He is betting big on Make in India Week, hoping to attract investors. "I'm confident of creating custom-made aircraft. With some backing, I could revolutionise the Indian aviation history," he said.