RANJIT Phelan was four when he flew his first model aircraft.
“My first plane was a handmade chuck glider mum and dad made for me,” he said.
Ranjit’s father was a former Indian Airforce pilot who flew P-51 Mustangs in Burma during the Second World War and his mother was an aero-modeller.
Modelling was a hobby that grew into a passion for young Ranjit and as modelling materials and technologies improved, so did his prowess with the machines.
He began to design and make his own radio controlled aircraft from scratch.
Away from the modelling fraternity, it was Ranjit’s dream to eventually become a pilot.
“As soon as I could I tried out for the air force,” he said.
“They told me I was the perfect candidate. I knew all the aircraft and all I wanted was to become a pilot. I was going gangbusters until the medical when I discovered I was colour-blind.”
The knowledge that he would not be able to fly planes was one of the low points in Ranjit’s life.
“They begged me to stay. They said just because I was colour-blind it didn’t mean I couldn’t stay in the air force, but I wanted to fly and that was it,” he said.
He took solace from his models and it was not long before he was making his mark on the competitive circuit.
“I’ve been to 10 world championships and finished second twice. I’ve come third, fourth, fifth, but never won one,” he said.
A many times national champion, he says competitive modelling is not at all what people expect.
“The F3D class, which is the international class, is the Formula One of the modelling scene,” he said.
“The planes we fly can reach speeds of up to 370km/h. I hold the Quarter Midget national record for the shortest time around a 4km pilot course at 54.8 seconds.”
Since moving to the Gloucester valley in August last year, Ranjit has joined the Gloucester Aero Club and now conducts all his practice flights from the local air strip.
“Everyone involved in the club has been so kind and supportive,” he said.
“They welcome all facets of aviation, from modelling right up to flying full size aircraft.”
To see Ranjit’s planes in action head to the Gloucester Aero Club’s fly-in day on October 26 and 27.
- GLOUCESTER Lions Club will be hard at work cooking the barbecue for this weekend’s fly-in.
The club will also prepare a two-course baked dinner for aero club members on Saturday night.
Proceeds from the fly-in will be donated to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.