Flight Plan

When imagination took off, with an Airbus aircraft

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on February 19, 2019 Published on February 19, 2019

Tickets to the museum are designed as boarding passes

Exhibits inside the Aircraft Museum

The Aircraft Museum in Kathmandu is housed in a plane!

 

Less than 800 metres from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, an Airbus A-330-300 aircraft stands ready, complete with air hostesses in bright red uniforms waiting to welcome guests as they present their tickets designed as boarding cards.

However, this is a different kind of a flight as it takes you through the history of aviation the world over, and a lot more.

Welcome to the Aircraft Museum in the Nepalese capital, which is set up in a real Airbus A-330-300 aircraft.

The Turkish Airlines aircraft that houses the museum met with an accident while landing in Kathmandu and could not be used again. The Bed Upreti Trust, run by Captain Upreti who is flying with the Indonesian Lion Air Group, bought the aircraft from Turkish Airlines. He decided to set up a museum inside a wide body aircraft “to motivate our future generations.”

Says Upreti, “It will bring aviation history into the lives of everyone. It will also be the best educational tool and motivating centre for students and be an interesting tourist destination.”

It took close to a month and required the help of at least four engineers from Turkey to cut the aircraft into 12 vertical and horizontal parts. “We could only transport the parts from the airport between midnight and 4 am,” recalls Raju Mahat, an aircraft engineer and currently the Manager of the museum.

It took another nine months to assemble the 12 parts into a complete aircraft with two engines as is seen on any Airbus A-330-300 flying around the world. The remodelled aircraft has seven sections, including the tail, which houses the cafeteria where the original galley equipment still sits.

Video with commentary

A visit to the museum begins with a short video tracing the evolution of flying. The commentary is provided in both Nepali and English. Then visitors can stroll through the museum and view the 294 aircraft models on display, including a Kingfisher Airlines aircraft (an airline that Upreti flew with), an Airbus A-380 and the Concorde. According to Mahat, the models are a mix of what Captain Upreti has collected over the years and gifts from other aviation enthusiasts; some have even been bought.

Visitors can also learn about important dates in aviation dating back to 1500 BC when Italian artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci made drawings of flying machines with flapping wings or about Henri Farman of France who made the first official circular flight of 1 km in 1908.

Did you know?

Another section gives interesting facts about flying — for instance, there are 7,000 flights in the air worldwide at any one time, the captain and co-pilot eat a different meal to avoid both of them getting food poisoning and only 5 per cent of the world’s population has ever been on an airplane.

The walls of the museum have pictures, many of which have been taken by Captain Upreti, and feature an ultra light aircraft flying past Annapurna II and IV. There is also a stunning view of Mount Everest from the air. The museum, which attracts about 600 visitors on a work day and about 1,500 to 1,600 visitors on holidays and weekends, has been created at a cost of 27 million Nepalese rupees.

According to Upreti, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) played a vital role in setting up the museum which is a joint venture between CAAN and the Bed Upreti Trust.

The museum is being financed by Bed Upreti Trust but the land was provided by CAAN. The museum is run with the money it earns through the sale of tickets.

This is the second such museum that Captain Upreti has set up in Nepal. Five years ago he got a Fokker-100 when Cosmic Airline shut down and he opened the first aviation museum in his hometown Dhanagadi.

“I am also building a 3D museum in Mahendranagar, Nepal. The museum will be ready within 10 months,” adds Upreti who, when not flying, can be seen interacting with students and other visitors to the museum.

There is an Indian connection to the museum — it was a team of Air India engineers who retrieved the aircraft, thereby eventually paving the way for Captain Upreti setting up the museum.

Published on February 19, 2019
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