Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Two Aeroplanes of Balsa Wood

The house upstairs had a tenant.  The tenant's relative was staying with them for his studies in this city.  His nickname was 'Gunda'.  He was in college and I had just entered high school. He was a cadet in the National Cadet Corps and was in the Air Wing Section.  He used to make areoplane models at home as part of the projects and training imparted there. He also had a tiny petrol engine the size of a computer mouse, which he fitted to his model and flew it in the field along with other cadets.  Since he knew I was interested in watching the models fly, he sometimes used to inform me the time. So I went on my bicycle to the field [Maharaja's College] less than a kilometre away to watch. Some others also came with their models.  The model plane was harnessed to a long string which was held by the 'flier' and flown around him in a circle.

The plane took off aggressively....brrrrrrrr...... and was [and  had to be] carefully grounded when it went.... phuttut, phut.....phut....phut... ......phut, which meant that the petrol in its tiny tank exhausted. There was no such thing as electronic remote control in those days. It was fully manual. They refilled the tank and started it again. It was fun to watch those 3-feet wing-span models with rubber wheels.  It was something like kite-flying.  What was not fun to watch was when sometimes these cute little models crash landed due to design/modeling/handling flaws.  Once crashed, it was nearly unusable, except its engine.  Aero modeling and flying seemed to be a precision art in themselves.

Gunda had many scrap pieces of this Balsa Wood [very light in weight and colour also] left over in his room upstairs and I had seen it, because I used to stand and watch him do some minor adjustments for his model. This wood was rationed at the Air Wing Base here and was not freely available.  So I would pester him to get me some pieces as I too wanted to make a showcase model.  Me flying it was out of question because it required technical knowledge about areo modeling. I remember he used the popular glue of those days 'Quick Fix' and they came in collapsible tubes. He needed quite a lot of them!

When I got some scrap pieces from him, I got to work on making my own aeroplane!  In magazines, I was fond of looking at images of aeroplanes. I needed something as a base design.  I had seen in a distant relative's  house in Hassan during our tour, a model kept on the desk in his house-office. It had impressed me as a 9 year old. This came to my mind, but was ruled out. So I chose a particular image in some magazine.  It was an Air France Concorde.  I am sure you have heard about it. If not, click on this.

I simply liked its very look.  The word 'supersonic' itself thrilled me! It is such a magnificent bird!

This is a real model, in flight - a web grab image - to compare it with what I did, looking at a magazine picture.

The balsa wood pieces also suited its design. Carefully I cut up the wood.  I did not have a saw or any tool in those days.  I had sand paper and my father's shaving blade.  I cut the wood with the blade and smoothened the wood with sand paper in the end.  

 I could not replicate the exact proportions or the beautiful 'droop nose' of the original.

Since the work on this Concorde Project came off really well and made me happy, I painted it white and copied the windows etc. from that image.  As I mentioned, my creation was only meant for our showcase where even today, it has a special place.  My model is 'wheel less'. 

I mounted it on a mosquito coil stand. 

From other pieces, on another day, I made one more simpler model which now hangs in my room, swaying in the breeze. I took it out on our 'runway' for this picture.

And even posed it against the sky for a 'real look'!

Gunda left for his parents' house after his study in a couple of years by about 1974-5.  I know not where he is, close to 40 years hence. These two models are kept in his memory.

My Air France Concorde's value jumped a few notches when in reality, the original took its final flight of its life in 2003.

1 comment:

  1. You have done a very good job. How did you make the fuselage?

    I have seen the one retired, at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum - Udvar Hazy Center, quite close to my house.


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