Punjab — A Pakistani pop-corn seller made headlines in the media with his extra-ordinary Mini-Airplane which he made with burrowed rickshaw wheels, engine made from a road cutter and winds designed using burlap.
32-year-old Mohammed Fayyaz belongs to Tabur village of Punjab province, unfortunately he had limited access to education but he dreamt to fly in the sky as a Pakistan Airforce pilot. Eventually, he made his own Airplane after watching a TV clips and online blueprints.
Fayyaz insists he flew and his claim is being taken seriously by the Pakistan air force, whose representatives have now visited him multiple times, even issuing a certificate to commend his work, he revealed.
His three-room home is often crowded by the visitors who sits in the empty courtyard watching his amazing creation in agape.
Fayaz said he had dreamed of joining the air force as a child, but his father died while he was in still in school, forcing him to drop out at the eighth grade and do odd jobs to feed his mother and his five younger siblings.
However his economical drawback didn’t keep his passion for flying diminished, so he worked like a maniac in crafting his own airplane.
By day he worked as a popcorn seller, by night as a security guard, saving every rupee he could, his neighbors said.
Initially, he started seeking information by watching episodes of the National Geographic Channel’s Air Crash Investigation for detailed knowledge on thrust, air pressure, torque and propulsion.
Cheap internet access in his city helped him obtain spliced blueprints of planes for his creation.
He sold a piece of family land, and took out a 50,000 rupee ($350) loan from a micro-finance NGO, which he is still paying off.
He used his meager funds creatively, buying burlap sacks wholesale and persuading a kind workshop employee who had seen him scouting for materials to build him a propeller.
There was trial and error. Some equipment needed to be replaced, designs had to be altered, the wiring had to be reworked.
But his family was worried about his obsession. His mother Mumtaz Bibi said, “I kept telling him to stop. I kept telling him to concentrate on his family and work, he was being crazy over nothing. But he didn’t listen to a single word.”
But Fayyaz kept going. And, at the end of it all produced a plane — tiny, fragile, and painted a bright blue.
In February this year, he said, after more than two years of ridicule, he was ready.
Fayyaz claims his friends helped him to block a small road which he used as a runway for that first flight attempt in February.
The plane reached 120kph before taking off, Ameer Hussain, a witness who claims to have ridden alongside the plane in a motorcycle, said.
“It was between two and two and half feet off the ground,” he said. “It flew for about two to three kilometers before landing.”
But the attempt made Fayyaz bold enough to want to try again in front of the rest of his village, many of whom had mocked his efforts.
He picked March 23, Pakistan Day, for the unveiling. Police said hundreds of people crowded around his tiny plane, many clutching national flags.
Unfortunately, Fayyaz could even start the engine, the police arrived and arrested him, confiscating his plane.
“I felt as though I had committed one of the worst acts in the world, as though I am the worst person in Pakistan,” he explained, adding: “I had been locked up with criminals.”
The court released him with a 3,000 rupees ($19) fine.
Court called his plane a safety threat which could jeopardize his life.
Police Officer Zafar Iqbal explained: “The plane was returned to him as a goodwill gesture. Should he obtain a flying license or permit, he is free to fly.”
In the meanwhile, Fayyaz could become a social media fame with his extra-oridinary talent and netizens call him an “inspiration”.