An amateur aviator dreams big

Published in Express Tribune September 18,2011

In the summer of 1978, Qazi Sajjad entered Sabrina Cinema in Peshawar, where a James Bond film was being shown. After watching the film, he became obsessed with the idea of building an ultra-light glider, which Bond had used in the film. Sajjad succeeded after years of dedication.

Despite spending tens of thousands of rupees and losing his brother in a test flight, he considers his dream far from achieved. He lives in Landi Arbab, a small village on the outskirts of Peshawar, and since that fateful summer, every member of his family has developed a passion for building aircrafts.

Sajjad closely observed the plane in the film and made a mental blueprint. He shared his idea with his uncle Qazi Jamshed and brother Qazi Farhad who proved equally enthusiastic. Their main problem was finance. “After making a rough design, we set out to make a glider with parachute material and bamboo sticks, since aluminum pipes were not available in Pakistan,” recalls Sajjad. They covered the bamboo sticks with tin plate and their maiden flight took off from Canal Road. The pilot, unaware of the wind’s direction, crashed against the trees and was seriously injured. By chance, however, he discovered that by flying the glider in the opposite direction, the wings got a lift from the wind. The next step was to install an engine. Sajjad sold his parents’ fridge without telling his mother and purchased a 24 horsepower Suzuki engine. He also purchased spare parts from a second-hand dealer and started making lightweight aircraft. “I was the engineer and my uncle and brother were pilots,” says Sajjad who is a matriculate.

Since their maiden flight in a single-seater airplane in 1984, there has been no looking back. So far they have made seven ultra-light planes, two of which were sold to the Pakistan Air Force and another two to ultra-light plane enthusiasts. On August 11, 2001, Farhad died in an air crash. However, Sajjad and his family carried on with their plans. “We pioneered ultra-light flying in Pakistan,” Sajjad said. Three years back, they registered with the Civil Aviation Authority and were issued registration number 0001 for their plane.A year later, the Ababeel Ultra-Light Sports Club was inaugurated at a cost of Rs20 million, at the University of Peshawar’s Azakhel campus in Nowshera. “We shifted our two planes there, but when we went to fly them the club had been closed,” said his brother, Tufail. It is not clear who ordered it closed and they are trying to figure it out for the past year, since the orders were verbal. Sajjad’s two-seater plane flies at a speed of 80 to 110 kilometres per hour and can reach Lahore in four hours.

Sajjad is pursuing his dream with the same zest and now wants to build a helicopter, which is their toughest challenge yet. He has been working on it for the past five years. He has made the tail rotor and swash plates and completed almost 35 per cent of the work. “In the absence of financial support, I have sold my agricultural land to make this dream a reality,” he said. The brothers were awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for their inventions in 2004.


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