by Duy Ngoi
|Frequent flyers: Viet (second from left) and his model airplane club friends prepare for take off. — VNS File Photos
|Flyboy: With more than 20 model airplanes to his name, Viet proudly shows off a few from his hand-made collection.
It's not unusual for children to stare longingly at the sky, dreaming of airplanes gliding across the wild blue yonder.
Such a dream burned so intensely inside the now 20-year-old Do Quoc Viet, a student of the Ha Noi University of Science and Technology, from Dong Anh District, that he became inspired to invent his own set of model airplanes.
Viet's passion for model airplanes was ignited in the sixth grade after discovering a friend's toy plane. Instantly captivated by it, Viet longed for his very own though his parents could not afford to buy one.
Determined to possess the one object he desired, Viet made his own modest airplane out of no more than paper and bamboo pieces in seven days. However, like a kite, it could only fly when the wind picked up.
Still, Viet's passion continued to grow, and before long he was hooked on reading specalist books and gathering information on model airplane design from the internet.
Slightly more complicated than Viet's rudimentary prototype, a standard model airplane requires a three-phase motor, which is often imported, along with wings and a tail made from a lightweight sponge, and a frame made from lightweight wood and steel wire.
However, in order to minimise the cost of his airborne contraptions, Viet employs more unconventional and inexpensive items such mobile phone charger cables to make electric circuits for the models, as well as mounting reflector lamps to control them while flying at night.
Viet's planes can fly at an average speed of 100-120km/h, while some can even reach up to 250km/h. Due to the high speeds, it's not uncommon for Viet's airplanes to suddenly burst into flames or explode mid-flight, so he methodically checks all technical parameters before flying.
"It took me a whole month to invent my first proper model airplane," says Viet. "But it exploded during its first test flight."
That said, Viet stresses that the most difficult part when making a model airplane is ensuring the balance of wings, which generate lift and make the plane fly.
To date, Viet has made more than 20 model airplanes, of which the SR-71 (based on the strategic bomber aircraft) is the most sophisticated. Taking two months to complete, the SR-71 is his pride and joy following three years honing his craft.
The Mustang B51D is another impressive model cherished by Viet, though it's one not made by his own hand. Viet saw the Mustang broken among mothballs in an old man's house and asked if he could take it home to repair. After much sweat and tears, Viet successfully restored the rare and highly sought after model to its former glory.
When completed, Viet's models can be sold for VND1.5-3 million (US$72-$144) each, though he isn't looking to profit from his talent.
"I will never sell them, no matter the price offered," Viet states. "Inventing model airplanes is my interest, it's for fun, not money."
Studying automatic control has afforded Viet with a wealth of knowledge about model airplanes, and now he takes part in test flights for his university's aviation department.
Inevitably, Viet hopes to open a store selling lightweight wood for manufacturing model airplanes while also continuing to invent his own unique aircraft. — VNS