Urvish Nawab’s house in Ahmedabad is a show-stopper; passers-by are captivated by replicas of bombers and trainer fighter aircraft from the two world wars in his garden.
Although he has a business of manufacturing high-performance injection moulded plastic products, 53-year-old Nawab takes out time from work to make scaled down aircraft models. He says his mother encouraged him in his hobby, seeing his love for planes, by buying him books on aircraft, chuck-gliders and rubber-powered gliders.
“I started making models as a child. One of my basic models of a Dakota is still part of my collection. As a boy, I spent hours with carpenters working at home or nearby to learn how to fashion solid wood,” he says.
Nawab begins by downloading a professionally designed multi-dimensional plan of the aircraft that he plans to replicate. “Much care goes into measuring and cutting the wood for the frame for my replica. The parts made from wood and other materials have to be cut and shaped according to the dimensions of the aircraft,” he explains.
After assembling, painting, lacquering and other surface finishing work is done so that it is a fairly accurate replica of the original. “I go into a lot of detail. A person looking at one of my replicas with a magnifying glass was surprised to find that I had stuck a printed version of the original warning sign at the exact place where it was in the original plane. It can take days to make a single replica,” he adds.
Nawab recalls a holiday at Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur, Rajasthan, where he saw their Royal Mews that houses restored vintage and classic cars. He says, “The owner Harshvardhan Singh told me that his ancestor, Maharawal Bijai Singhji, donated two DH-5 aircraft to the British Royal Air Force. I made a scaled down model of the DH-5 with others he commissioned me to make.”
He has also made replicas of aircraft for the Department of Civil Aviation, government of Gujarat, which are displayed in the hangar of the Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Limited, including a replica of the Beechcraft used by the chief minister.
The history of aviation has always fascinated him and he has made replicas of some of the earliest planes.
His home collection is divided into four sections. On the staircase leading to his room is a glider made by Otto Lilienthal, the first aircraft to make well-documented and successful flights. Lilienthal is one of the most important aviation pioneers and the father of hang-gliding. Another section showcases the history of aviation in India. The third is on aircraft, ships and armoury used in the world wars. The fourth is dedicated to airplanes of the Indian Air Force.
“I always wanted to fly for the Indian armed forces. I was active in the air wing of the National Cadet Corps, winning awards for aeromodelling, and the Ahmedabad Gliding and Flying Club. I learnt flying at the Gujarat Flying Club in Vadodara and got my pilot license. But for family reasons I could not take up flying as a career,’’ he explains. “I am still active in air and water sports, and making these replicas helps me satiate some of my passion.”
Nawab’s dream is to use his collection to educate students about aviation. “I hope to have enough models to make a small museum. I’d like my pieces to be part of an informative museum one day,” he says.