Saji Thomas, 45, from Thodupuzha in Idukki, Kerala, was born deaf and mute. However, this did not prevent him from achieving great heights in life.
Thomas, who was called ‘useless’ by villagers, has now become the pride of Thattakuzha.
It took five years for the class 7th drop-out to build the twin-seater, lightweight aircraft ‘Saji X-Air’ from recycled and used parts. Thomas assembled the aircraft in his backyard for roughly Rs 14 lakh, as against the market price of about Rs 25 lakh for a similar aircraft. He has already got into India Book of Records and will now be featuring in a programme
HRX Superheros on Discovery Channel.
Thomas is now seeking a licence from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. He is also seeking a job as an aeronautics mechanic and hopes that some reputed company recruits him.
Coming from a poor family, he had to face many financial constraints due to which it took him a long time to build the aircraft. But his determination kept him going. He had to do odd-jobs like rubber plantation worker, television mechanic, and wedding photographer to sustain himself and his family. During the time of adversities, he never gave up.
To keep his budget in-tact, he kept used recycled parts like used locally-sourced mahogany to make propellers, polished wooden blades, scooter parts used for shock absorbers etc.
Interestingly, this is not Saji’s first aircraft. Earlier, he made a smaller version but it could not fly because of the Yamaha bike engine used by him to cut costs.
In 2008, Saji met Thiruvananthapuram-based SKJ Nair, a (Rtd) Wing Commander, who mentored him throughout his project. He also arranged for Saji’s aircraft maiden flight at his flying school. Nair says
“It is a great achievement to build an aircraft despite Saji’s constraints and physical disability. I have flown several models of X-Air aircraft but I find Saji’s aircraft is a better version of the existing X-air models in the market. He is very capable of making any model if you show him just the design.”
Though Thomas never let his disabilities come in his way, he requires help to check the engine sound. His is assisted by his wife Mariya.
Saji loves to read books, is internet savvy and has sound knowledge of electronics and aeronautics. He wants to work as an aeronautics mechanic. But the family is disappointed by the government’s response.
“We even approached Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for help. But promises just remain unfulfilled so far. Even now we have been calling up government officials. They keep saying the process to give him a job is going on. We lead a difficult life without enough money. Saji has spent all his savings on this aircraft.”
The family, who has supported Saji through the project, is now hoping that some good Samaritan comes forward to help Saji reach greater heights. Saji dreams to build a twin-engine aircraft which can take off without having to move on the runway.