Turning an unfortunate incident into a new opportunity is really a rare feat and what if the resultant is creating huge reputation! Exciting, right?
A similar strategy struck a Nepali pilot Captain Bed Prasad Upreti’s mind, who moved on to create Nepal’s first such aviation museum out of a plane that crash-landed at the country’s only international airport two years back.
Airbus 330, a Turkish Airlines plane that was carrying around 224 passengers, had skid off the runway and crash-landed at the Kathmandu Airport in March 2015.
Luckily, the crash did not harm any of the passengers on-board. But, the airport had to remain shut for almost four days till the removal of the crash-landed plane.
Eventually, the plane was parked aside at a corner of the airport where it remained exposed to open environment rusting for almost two years.
Here is where Upreti’s initiative to create the country’s largest aviation museum began.
“It is unfortunate that the aircraft had an accident and was grounded, but I saw a perfect opportunity,” says Upreti.
Upreti’s efforts to turn the crashed plane into an aviation museum began with bringing the crashed plane 63 meter from airport across the road to the museum lot.
As a process, Upreti recalls a similar experience he had in transporting an abandoned Fokker 100, half the size of Airbus A330, 500 km to Dhangadi of Nepal’s far west to set up a museum on a smaller scale than the present one.
“Transporting that plane across districts was much easier than relocating the Airbus meters away from the airport,” adds Upreti.
He has changed the interior of the plane by removing the entire seating set up and made it spacious.
Upreti invested USD 600,000 and also acquired Rs 20 million aid in loan from the Everest Bank to build the museum.
“As per the contract, if we are unable to run the aviation museum after 10 years from now, all the parts of this museum will be sold to junkyards. I hope that won’t happen,” says Bed.
Upreti was hopeful that the museum will be an inspiration to youngsters towards pursuing careers in pilot and engineering courses.
“Passers-by are already peeking to get a glimpse,” adds Upreti with confidence over huge public attention to the museum.
The museum-turned plane features a model of the world’s first aircraft of Wright Brothers’ in the business class section and a café in the in the tail part.
“The museum will give a chance to some Nepalis who might never fly to step into a plane,” says Shyam Rauniyar (22), an engineering student who was part of the team that prepared the model of the Wright Brother’s plane.
Besides, the museum also features more than 150 miniature display planes that illustrate the world’s aviation history and also the story of Nepal’s flying industry.
The museum offers free entry for the students of Grade IX-XII across Nepal provided they have an official letter endorsing the visit from their schools and all the students with IDs get 50 percent off.
“It is not possible to give free tickets to all the students, but we are trying discounts. We are also encouraging students to pursue higher studies to make their career in aviation field,” says Upreti on offering free tickets to the students.
The museum also displays 86 photographs of Upreti’s journey to 80 countries so far. The captured displays include historical and cultural monuments of Nepal in an aerial view and also the underwater captures of various seas all over.
Airbus A330 is a wide-body aircraft with 208 feet in height and 55 feet in width.
Besides driving the youth towards careers in aviation sector, the museum planned under the Bed Upreti Trust also stands for a noble social cause.
“The Bed Upreti Trust is a non-profit organization that has already set up an aviation museum in an abandoned Fokker 100 in Dhangadi. The revenue from that project goes to assist cancer patients. The museum in Kathmandu is a sequel to the Dhangadi venture for which the Trust has partnered with the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN),” informed Upreti.
This aviation museum is part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s efforts to address a severe shortage of pilots across the world.
In this regard, ICAO has started a Next-Generation Aviation Professional program and has called on its partner organizations across the globe to implement the same.
“CAAN has responded to this call by starting its own campaign to get students interested in the aviation sector in Nepal. This aviation museum is a part of that effort and a result of cooperation between CAAN and the Bed Upreti Trust,” says Birendra Prasad Shrestha, Deputy Director, CAAN.
According to a recent survey, the global aviation industry will need 350,000 new pilots and 450,000 aeronautical technicians within the next decade.