For 45-year-old Saji James, sky indeed seems to be the limit. The hearing and speech impaired Class 7 dropout is a crafty innovator who built an ultra-light two-seater aircraft, and was even featured by Discovery Channel for his skill. Hailing from the remote village in Thodupzuha in Idukki, James not only assembled the aircraft but flew it himself.
It took James three attempts to build the aircraft. In his first attempt, he managed to build a frame and other equipment of the aircraft. He later he fitted it with a motorcycle engine, but couldn’t fly it. “He sold his second aircraft to an engineering college for Rs 1.50 lakh and completed the third one called Saji-X Air with this. A retired wing commander S K J Nair helped him realise his dream,” said James’ wife, Maria. Since he doesn’t have a pilot licence, James couldn’t fly the craft higher than 30 feet.
The aircraft was built using recycled materials, costing around Rs 13 lakh. To fund his passion, James sold a large portion of his land, and constantly does odd jobs like repair works for TVs, etc. However, it’s a tough life that James is looking to turn around. His efforts so far got him on TV (James was featured on HRX Super Heroes, a TV show anchored by actor Hrithik Roshan last year), and even a letter of praise from a former defence research and development officer.
“When I was 14, I was inspired by a pilot who came to spray pesticide... near my house. Moved by my enthusiasm he gave me a free ride. This really fuelled my imagination,” he wrote on his website.
The late former president APJ Abdul Kalam also become an inspiration. James is hoping his innovation catches a major investor’s eye so he can spend quality time and money on improving his crafts.