CHENNAI : As kids, most of us loved the idea of spotting an airplane in the sky and running behind it. GN Sridar was one such kid who worked toward his fascination for airplanes and built his own model airplane. “I used to invest my pocket money in buying kits to construct modular aircrafts. My father and brother always encouraged me to pursue my passion. My brother worked in the Indian Air Force and he’d request his pilot friends to get the required engine from abroad. During college days, a friend and I always spent free time flying these models within the radius of our playground,” says the 68-year-old city-based businessman who currently resides in Anna Nagar.
Sridar has a diploma in mechanical engineering and a postgraduation diploma in production engineering. He moved to Chennai from Coimbatore in 1978. After he started purchasing from India Hobby Centre, now known as Emerald Hobby Centre in Anna Salai, he met a few people who shared similar passion for flying. The centre served as a pioneer for promoting model aircrafts. Be it the requirement of kits or balsa wood and engines, the store catered to all of customer’s demands.
“There are several aspects to building a flying model — ready-to-fly planes, kit building, scratch building and one where you can design your own plane. Only after coming here, I got to know about remote control planes. The time frame marked the beginning of radio control. Development of battery and motors revolutionised the idea of electric planes. The plane engine has a carburetor, silencer and it runs on fuel like that of our vehicles. I also tried my hand at painting, cutting and drilling at my garage, which is also a workspace. Even a tiniest mistake can goof up the whole model,” shares Sridar, who has made 60 to 70 models so far.
He says, there were very few private modelers during those days. Flying, gliding and aero modeling was seen only among NCC air wing cadets. “There used to be a yearly competition where operating planes would perform stunts. In control line planes, the flying radius is fixed and the height is often restricted. Models could fly only in circles. Just by moving one’s wrist, you can create patterns like loop, bunt, clover and figure-eight. The machine works on the concept of a bell clang. The activity improves eye-hand coordination, reflexes and aerobic skills,” says Sridar.
In Sridar’s group, almost 15- 20 members are more than 60 years old. They come from different professions, including pilots. Earlier, the flyers used to gather on Saturdays at Taramani, Sholavaram and currently Mambakkam. A conducive weather and an empty ground are mandatory for flying. Visibility is affected when the sky is overcast and the model gets camouflaged and so bright colours areoften preferred.
“With observation and right inputs in the right directions, the plane is well within the limit. We help each other and solve problems on the field. Some of my friends also fly drones however it is prohibited inside the city due to security reasons. ‘What’s on your drawing board and when is it going to see the sky?’ this is a commonly asked question among members. While constructing a model if we come across an attractive design, we drop the present model and focus on the new one,” says Sridar who is currently making a free-flying model. He adds that each designer calls his creation by name — Tomboy, Mansell, Superchaos.
“We also have jets that fly at high speed operating on the same system. It is necessary that we stick to the safety norms. Shopkeepers must know what should be sold to whom. If a model cannot be handled by a beginner then it shouldn’t be sold to them. It is not a toy. It can cause permanent disablement and injuries. Also never fly at a crowded place,” says Sridar.