GILGIT: Kabir Khan always dreamed of becoming a pilot and soaring over the towering mountains surrounding Gilgit city. That dream could not become reality, but he found another way to satiate his thirst for touching the skies.
Over the past two years, Khan has single-handedly made 10 different kinds of aircraft using various kinds of material, including plywood and aluminum frames. “This is a passion and a way to satiate my thirst for flying,” he told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
Khan does not have a professional degree in and currently serves in a government office as a computer operator. “It was my desire to make aircraft but it wasn’t an easy task given that it required time, money and material besides some human resource,” says Khan.
“I design the aircraft by downloading images from the internet,” he said, while explaining the four to six-month long process of completing one project. “I use raw material wherever possible to give it shape.”
The first plane he made was a Cessna 182, which took him about five months to prepare and cost about Rs25,000. Unfortunately, it crashed the same day while landing.
Khan, however, didn’t lose heart. He immediately began making another, even better plane. It was a Falcon 25, which suffered the same fate after flying for five minutes.
The failures, however, didn’t deter Khan’s efforts. He then made a Wing Dragon which finally proved to be his maiden success. “It flew for more than five minutes and as high as 1,000 feet,” said the architect, adding that the plane wings measured a combined 48 inches.
A bedroom hanger
At present, more than seven planes are in Khan’s fleet, which also include two jet planes (Raptor F22) measuring seven and three feet, respectively.
A Quadcopter is also part of his collection of aircraft in his room, which serves as a hanger. “The expenditure incurred on it was more or less Rs25,000,” he said of the Quadcopter, which is similar to a drone camera used widely by media outlets and enthusiasts these days.
Where there’s a will…
A lack of open space for flying, coupled with financial implications, make Khan’s work a challenge. He flies his aircraft in play grounds and parks but feels that it is hardly sufficient or safe enough for take-off and landing. “The results and performances would be better if I get a good runway strip.”
Moreover, Khan finances his hobby from his own pocket. “I save up to Rs5,000 from my salary every month and when I have enough at my disposal, I start work.”
But a lack of assistance and availability of parts in Gilgit market pose another challenge for Khan. For parts, he says, he approaches markets in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi while the real help comes from his brother.
Khan’s hobby isn’t restricted to model planes.
One day, he plans to make a single-seat plan for himself. But his elder brother, Nadeem, says to do that they’d have to face the biggest hurdle yet: permission from their mother. “Our mother fears for his life and that is perhaps the biggest reason my brother has yet to embark on that adventure,” said Nadeem.