Being the King of Dentistry and to be able to pursue a hobby like aeromodelling at the same time is the stuff of inspiration for millions of aspirants. We, at The Hobbyist World, strive to bring forth to you, the people who have achieved great feats like this. So, today we present to you, Dr. Sunil Bhoolabhai, the renowned dentist with an untethered passion for model aircrafts.
What inspired you to take up aero modelling as a hobby?
So when i was a kid, maybe around 12 or 13 years of age, I was always fascinated by flying machines in general. When my folks made a trip to the US, they got me a plastic plane with a motor which went round and round on a string. It started with that, it was a red plastic plane. I looked at it and I was very fascinated by it because it was a flying machine. I fooled around with it and messed up a lot of things in it and had a few enjoyable moments with it. To me it was like a bug. I was hooked. So, on subsequent visits to the UK and the US, I bought some of those kits which you have to handcraft and stick together, not knowing how to fly them. So I made this big glider with thin delicate pieces of Balsa wood which my brother and I went to the Juhu flying club and thought “oh god… How do you fly this?…. it wasn’t going to fly on its own”.. So I said, “ if we chuck it and if it touches the wing, it's going to break.” And so and so forth, by the process of learning, seeing , touching… when there was no internet, there was no medium and we had to buy magazines. So from there it went on. I tried making Impossibility a degree of difficulty, so to say. There was a hobby centre near marine line station, where we’d get chuck glider kits with windable propellers, and slowly move from there on to mid air control airplanes.
What drives your passion for aero modelling?
It takes me into another dimension, it takes me into another world and it makes me forget about everything. I’m only physically looking at what I’m doing and living in my fantasy world to a larger proportion than my reality world. you know your mind has two worlds you live in : Fantasy and reality. So when I’m working, I fantasise about the plane on how its going to look and fly. That takes me away and it's a big stress buster!
How do you manage to pursue a hobby like this while practicing dentistry?
Everything, in life, is a give and take. If you don’t make the time, you will not have the time. Even if it involves going to the gym or any other discipline, you have to make the time for a certain thing. I could say to myself that if I put in X number of hours of dentistry, I would make so much money. And if I put in X number of hours making a model plane, I’m not going to get anything, but the benefits of that, emotionally and sociologically to me, are so high, that it is worth more than the return you will make, in your job.
What are some of the challenges or hurdles you faced while pursuing this hobby?
The rate of change of momentum is directly proportional to the force applied. It’s Newton’s Law and unfortunately, we live in a dimension and a place, where every single input is a challenge. Every single acquisition is a challenge. Why? I would love to know but I don’t understand. However, given the fact that it is a challenge, there are understanding people involved along the way and we manage to bring what we want. Now the second part of the problem is that there is lesser and lesser time to fly and maintain. You know when you’re model flying airplanes, beyond a certain dimension they require routine maintenance. They require looking into in terms of not getting afflicted. You know you can’t take it up into the sky and expect it to fly automatically. So all this, takes input and time.
What are some of your future projects?
Physically and mentally, I’m so inundated with future projects, that I have actually come to a stalemate in my mind.To the point that, all these planes need a place to be stored in, because a lot of damage to these flying machines happen in hangar ash i.e. storage and transportation. We go fly sometimes out of Mumbai, Ambi Valley or wherever, and when we go there, you have to be very careful. You have to pad it nicely, carry it in your car very carefully. We don’t have English weather. Here, you start sweating by the time you finish carefully assembling it. So you have taken all this and beyond a certain larges, it is very difficult and cumbersome to deal with and yet we do it because we love it. Sometimes we have events, where you pitch up a little tent and you have storage for two or three days so you can take a few of them and you can take the trouble to assemble them and you can keep flying them. Otherwise, just taking something back and forth, has its own challenges.
What are some of the milestones you have achieved with this hobby?
This is a completely non commercial hobby. There are no commercial milestones to gain. There is no prize money to win. But it does involve developing and flying these incredible flying machines. It's great fun. It can be used for R & D
and to help governmental agencies understand better what’s around them because these are the predecessors of drones. These are the father not the son. The drones have been bastardised by an invention called the quad copter, which is an idiot proof invention with four motors and a battery which anybody can fly. We don’t fly drones… we fly airplanes.
Airplanes require to be in the line of sight, and require to be taken off when you need to fly them. There is no return home button or anything of that sort and we don’t have cameras on board like the drones. Drones are a completely different concept. Unfortunately, worldwide, because of ignorance, some people try to club it. It's not mixable.
Tell us some interesting instances…
My first ever radio control airplane was a kit from England called “Yamamoto '' it had a Japanese name. I have very senior friends. We used to fly in the Juhu flying club. They used to come and spend hours tweaking the engines and not getting them to perform etc. Me not knowing any better, along with my brother, we read whatever we could in magazines, run the engine for 30 seconds and stop it. Then run it for 15 seconds and stop it. Touch the cylinder head to see whether its cold, tweak it and get the RPM slightly higher. And by reading magazines, I used to break into my engines. My engine was so finally broken in that one flick of the propeller, (there are no starters you have to flick it.) With one flick of the propellers, my engine would start and I would have a flight and come back. By the time people were struggling to have one flight, I would have had four! So I was the envy of people around. People used to wonder how I am getting it to fly like this. Because I worked in the background very hard on the running in, break in and maintenance in that day and age. I really had fun with that aircraft. More to that, I once wanted to get into Painting and finishing a wooden airframe.
I have a friend, a senior aero modeller, based in Hyderabad, Capt. Randhawa. So I asked him “ Vicky, how do you do this?” He said “ you take a saree , you put it on the airframe with clear lacquer which you use for cars. Make sure that the saree is well adapted. Then fill the little pours with some filler.” We used to use talcum powder those days because we didn’t know better. "And then you spray paint on it.” So i got a saree from my mother. She had a crepe saree. Not even a plain saree. So i took that saree, started by anchoring it to one end and then pulling it to iron out the crepes and then putting the clear paint on it so that it stayed on. It was a difficult one because it was already at a disadvantage. So I did that and filled it with patti. I painted my aircraft finally. It was white, red and black. So Vicky finally saw it, he was left speechless because it was like a gleaming bullet. I don’t like half done stuff which can only fly and looks ugly.
What advice do you have to give to aspiring aero modellers?
Aero modelling is a very small group of people who take it further. There is enough help available for a youngster in any city. Since networking is a lot easier in this day and age, sync up with somebody who knows a little bit so that you don’t land up getting into trouble. Youtube has a lot of educational material. Do not spend hundreds and thousands of your money on it. Keep it simple. Today, electric air planes are very very good. You buy an electric airplane, made of high density foam, with a little electric motor and you can put a battery on it without feeling it. They have some factory recommended settings. Follow them. If you’re starting, you can’t really fly an airplane because when you’re flying it, you will have to get used to the directions. So, you’ll need a little bit of guidance and coaching. But you can do away with the building part of it. It's an advantage and a disadvantage. Because if you know the machine, you can fly it better. This is like taking it out of a video game perspective and putting it in reality without really doing anything. But it's become so big, that there is a big rally held in the US called TopGun and for the first time this year, they’ve introduced a foamy slot. This slot is where foam models are given for competitive purposes.