The Pakistani popcorn seller who built his own plane - GulfToday

The Pakistani popcorn seller who built his own plane

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Muhammad Fayyaz poses for photographs as he sits in his small plane at his residence.

The engine is from a roadcutter, the wings are burlap, the wheels are borrowed from a rickshaw: a popcorn seller has caught the attention of the Pakistan Air Force by building his own plane.

The tale of Muhammad Fayyaz has captured the hearts of many in a nation where millions, just like him, have limited access to education and are fighting for opportunities.

"I was literally in the air. I couldn't feel anything else," Fayyaz said of his first flight in a machine he learned to build mainly from viewing TV clips and online blueprints.

Pakistan has been thrilled before by stories of scientific prodigies plucked from obscurity before -- notably, that of the engineer who said in 2012 that he had invented a car that could run on water -- a story that was later debunked by scientists.

Dreaming of a jet plane

The 32-year-old said he had dreamed of joining the air force as a child, but his father died while he was in still in school, forcing him to drop out at the eighth grade and do odd jobs to feed his mother and his five younger siblings.

As an adult, his passion for flying remained undiminished, so he took a wild gamble on a new dream and put everything he had into creating his own craft.

By day he worked as a popcorn seller, by night as a security guard, saving every rupee he could.

The first thing he had to acquire was information -- beginning with watching episodes of the National Geographic Channel's Air Crash Investigation for insight into thrust, air pressure, torque, propulsion.

'Locked up with criminals'

In February this year, he said, after more than two years of ridicule, he was ready.

But before Fayyaz could even start the engine, the police arrived and arrested him, confiscating his plane.

"I felt as though I had committed one of the worst acts in the world, as though I am the worst person in Pakistan," he explained, adding: "I had been locked up with criminals."

The court released him with a 3,000 rupees ($19) fine.

Fayyaz's misfortune resulted in social media fame, and he was called a "hero" and an "inspiration" by some netizens.

Representatives from the Pakistan Air Force have made two visits to view the plane and the commander of a nearby base issued him a certificate which praises his "passion and dexterity" in building what it described as a "mini basic airplane".

Agence France-Presse