ALAPPUZHA: During the Covid-induced lockdown, when most people were at home making dalgona coffee or streaming movies, series and what not, Ashok Thamarakshan was busy with something else. The automobile engineer based in the UK was building an airplane! And he built it. A plane with four seats, one on which he flew to various countries!
“Airplanes fascinated me since my childhood,” said Alappuzha native Ashok, who is here on leave. The son of RSP leader and former MLA A V Thamarashan, Ashok went to the UK in 2006 as an employee of Ford after completing mechanical engineering from NSS Engineering College, Palakkad.
“After I reached the UK and got settled there, I became passionate about buying an aircraft. I got a pilot licence and started searching for airplanes. That was when I realied it would cost me around Rs 5 to 6 crore,” said Ashok. He decided to build one. “Many people in UK and other countries are building small airplanes. The parts are readily available,” he said.
“I purchased the parts for my airplane from South Africa, the engine from Austria and avionics equipment from the US. I set up a workshop near my house in Essex and got to work in April 2020,” said Ashok.
‘UK aviation authority monitored my work’
The Covid-induced lockdown in the UK and his company suspending operations due to the pandemic helped him focus on his pet project. “Initially, I decided to build a two-seater plane. However, for a family trip with my wife and two kids, I required a four-seater aircraft. So, I made it instead,” he said.
He said the UK Civil Aviation Authority monitored his work and every phase of the build was carried out only after its inspection and approval. “They continuously conducted flying tests on the plane for three months and finally okayed it for flying in February,” said Ashok, who spent around Rs 1.8 crore and 1,500 hours to build the plane. The aircraft weighs 520kg with a carrying capacity of 950kg, which includes four passengers. It can travel 250km in an hour.
He named the aircraft G-Diya, after his daughter Diya (G is the country code). After getting the nod to fly, Ashok and his two friends visited France, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. As of now, the plane has recorded 86 hours of flight. Ashok said he is planning more trips after he returns to the UK by next month.
His wife Abhilasha Dubey is an insurance data analyst in the UK and is a native of Indore. Thara is their elder daughter.“Building planes has very few legal tangles in the UK and other countries. Its just like making an automobile,” he said.