Ismail Shaikh, a 28-year-old school dropout from the Indian state of Maharashtra, had a dream: to own a helicopter. After asking around, he soon realised that helicopters cost millions – money he didn’t have.
That’s when he took on the challenge of building his very own helicopter.
Shaikh spent the last two years using car parts, metal and scrap material from junk yards to craft his own DIY copter, with a dream to make the formidable flying machine accessible to all. And he succeeded at building one. Until it killed him.
“It was his dream for over two years to make helicopters affordable by bringing its cost down to Rs 3 million ($40,404),” Inspector Vilas Chauhan, a police official from the area where the crash took place, told VICE World News. “He wanted to make it accessible for people to use during floods or calamities. But it ended up killing him.”
According to the police, Shaikh died after a rotor blade of his copter-like contraption collapsed onto him, killing him instantly as he tried to take it for a test drive. Shaikh worked as a welder and also built steel cupboards to earn a living, but spent nights perfecting his copter. He built it using a car engine and welding together metal parts he picked up from a local scrap dealer.
“He was a craftsman and taught himself how to engineer the helicopter,” said Chauhan. “He invested all his time and money to make his dream come true.”
Early morning on Wednesday, August 11, Shaikh took his helicopter to an open ground near his workshop to test it out, hoping he could publicly unveil it on August 15, India’s independence day, according to the police. As his friends filmed a video of his trial run, Shaikh was able to turn the engine on. But then, the tail rotor snapped off, hitting the main rotor that fell right onto Shaikh, who was trapped inside the machine.
“He managed to get it about two to four feet above the ground, but couldn’t control the speed of the rotors, causing them to fall off,” said Chauhan, who gathered the information from Shaikh’s friends. Although Shaikh’s friends rushed him to a nearby hospital, medical officials declared him dead before he could be admitted.
“It’s a tragic loss for his family, friends and the whole village,” said the police official.
In 2019, an Indonesian man successfully built a 26-foot helicopter from scratch in an attempt to rise above being stuck in traffic jams. Similarly, a popcorn seller in Pakistan built his own airplane by watching YouTube videos. However, he was arrested for flying it without a license when he took it out for a test drive.