BANGALORE: If Wright Brothers were alive today, they would have exclaimed, “Thank God, we just had to do a little!” The aviation industry incorporating the commercial airlines and warplanes have outgrown expectations.
Technology has had magical capabilities to transform from what was the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903 to a supersonic Lockheed SR 71 Black Bird - aircraft that can travel 3 times the speed of sound and cannot be reached by missiles because of its altitude capabilities. To chronicle this evolution of aviation in the world is definitely a job of a gradgrind.
Few people have the passion to ensure that there is not even a venial error in their passionate chronicling. Sanjay Simha is solely interested in facts when it comes to aeroplanes. In many ways, unlike Robert Franklin Stroud, the birdman of Alcatraz who became a ornithologist, and like him some ways in his passion to understand a specialisation without any requisite qualification, Sanjay is the metallic birdman of India. An avid aviation photographer and collector of aeroplane models, he is a walking encyclopedia on aeroplanes.
Categorically maintaining and not parrying off a single aviation question, Sanjay opens up a treasure trove of experiences during his visits to airbases spread across every corner of India when you speak to him. His passionate narration on some of the great officers he had met, getting the best picture after waiting for hours, seven days of carrying a 15-kilogram camera backpack ignoring sleep and food, (of course later conking off)...his Apollonian pursuit is definitely inspiring.
“When I was a young boy, I was fascinated to see huge chunk of metal going up in the air. Studying in 3rd grade, my dream was to be a fighter pilot. Every year, the vacations was something I looked forward to in a different manner as compared to my friends. For me, it was it was time to cycle 14 kms to the HAL airport, sit on the perimeter compound wall and watch aeroplanes take off & land,” he says.
A businessman by profession, aviation is purely a passion and Sanjay does not commercialise it. The effulgence on his face is evident as you speak to him about his photography experiences in various airbases in the country. “My first visit to an airbase was to Air Force Station, Yelahanka when I was in 7th grade. Since then I consider Yelahanka to be my home base and as time went by I have had the pleasure of being closely associated with many Air Officers Commanding and Commanding Officers of this base,” he says.
Sanjay’s interest in aeroplanes is multifarious. He collects anything and everything that has a resemblance to an aeroplane; be it airline post cards, books, models, photos, brochures, technical drawings, cut-away drawings, squadron patches, etc. A space has been designed in his architecturally marvellous house for showcasing his passion.
“I have exhibited 208 aircraft models in this mini-aviation museum which is divided into pavilions. I have an India Civil Aviation pavillion, a heavy lift cargo aircraft pavillion, helicopter pavillion, World War II pavillion, American fighter aircraft pavillion, etc."
For him, a aircraft model has to be an exact replica. “If I am not satisfied with a model, it goes to my daughter as a toy even though I might have spent a huge sum to procure it.” Aeroplanes may look the same for an average viewer, but each of them has its own distinct feature which needs to be brought out in the photograph, he says.
Not becoming a fighter pilot, but becoming an aviation chronicler and collector of aeroplanes definitely is a fight in itself and Sanjay will vouch for it.