The Joys of Model Aircraft Collecting is Something Every Man Should Experience
Every man’s desk should have a model airplane on it, if you ask me. For the first ten thousand years of civilization, leaving the ground was thought of as impossible, so there is no greater human achievement in history than flight, as far as I’m concerned. A model airplane in front of you will be a reminder, therefore, that the impossible is bloody possible.
It suffices to say that I have always been fascinated by flight. It is, after all, the most unnatural thing that humans have done, and in just about a century and a bit, we have gone from wood and fabric contraptions that could only fly a hundred-odd meters to gigantic twin-deck aircraft that can fly for sixteen hours, halfway across the planet. Like many little boys, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, or just a pilot. Flying was an awesome experience, on the old Indian Airlines Airbus A300s, making the run between Delhi and Kolkata as an unaccompanied minor for the summer holidays. Today, flying is a chore, but in collecting scale models, I rediscovered the fun of flight, along with my childlike fascination with planes.
My love for aircraft models really took a turn for the crazy when I visited Taipei for the first time. I was attending the computer equipment show Computex, and began wandering around the World Trade Centre opposite the bamboo-shoot shaped Taipei 101, and on the first floor I found a wholesaler of aircraft models. Kid. Candy store. Actually, that’s too mild an analogy to describe my emotions — endorphins simply took over my brain. By some fortuitous sets of events, I have been to Taipei three times since, and every time, I have come back with too many model aircraft. In November last year, I picked up a McDonnell Douglas MD-90 in company colours, an Ethiopian Boeing 767-300 and a Armee d’Air Dassault Rafale, with all hardpoints. A month before that, I randomly took part in a Twitter contest that Emirates ran, and promptly won Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 models. I’m also the guy on the flight who actually stops the stewardess going past with the dutyfree cart, which nobody usually does. You see, many airlines, on the back pages of their duty-free catalogues, have airplane scale models for sale — and I’m hopelessly addicted to them, as you know by now.
After a decade and a half of travelling across the planet, I know which shop at which airport to visit to buy aircraft models. For example, I know the shop at Hong Kong’s satellite terminal selling overpriced but rare models, or the shop at Amsterdam Schipol, which sells the entire gamut of KLM models. I have models in various scales, from 1:100 to 1:500, including multiple 1:200 models of Air India Express Boeing 737s, each featuring a different tail design, and many aircraft in special liveries, such as a KLM Boeing 737 in retro colours, a Finnair A340 in Marimekko flowers and a Air New Zealand Boeing 777 in the ‘All Blacks’scheme. It isn’t just civilian aircraft, either — I have scale models of the Sukhoi-35, the Rafale, a couple of Eurofighters, a Messerschmitt Bf- 109, a Junkers Stuka and an Indian Air Force Sukhoi 30 in a tricolour scheme.
When I look at the model Qantas Boeing 747-200 on my desk in the office, I realise just how remarkable it is that we have made flying unexciting, a mere fact of life, when it is anything but. And seriously, other than the random case of the missing Malaysian Boeing (how can we, in today’s day and age, lose a big commercial jet?) flying is remarkably safe. Since I also drive nice cars for a living occasionally, I know that I’ll take my chances with flying, any day of the week. Nothing can be as dangerous as driving on a North Kerala highway at night. Not even flying on a decrepit Russian jet (which is something I want to do within the next two years, by the way). At last count (and I have temporarily stopped buying models, as I have run out of display space) I had 55 models, not counting a couple that have unfortunately broken over the years. These are in addition to about a 100-odd car models I also own — and I’m not counting my Lego Star Wars kits. I honestly think I might have a problem. Regardless, I invite you to experience the joys of model aircraft for yourself — as a man-child (and let’s face it, we’re all man-children), it will give you immense satisfaction.