Briton finds value in junk warplane

The Times of India News Service

VARANASI: A warplane of the World War II era has been lying in the open on the premises of the Banaras Hindu University for over five decades. It may be a heap of junk for the varsity authorities, but for Peter Vacher, a British printer and publisher of academic journals, it is a priceless asset. He paid 27,000 pounds to the university to purchase this `junk'.

``Today my dream came true,'' Vacher told The Times of India on Friday. He was here to take away the aircraft he had been trying since 1995 to purchase.

The aircraft was used for two years in the war between Britain and Japan in Burma in 1942. Just before Independence in 1947, the British government donated it to the university for study purposes.

What lured this British national to buy the old aircraft was its antique value and the fact that it had the engine of a Rolls Royce. These cars are Vacher's other passion. For the past 20 years, Vacher has been scouting for old models of these cars in different parts of the world to prepare a catalogue of vintage cars. Along with his friend John Fasal, he has documented the cars belonging to the princely states of India and authored a book - Rolls Royce in Princely India. He has a collection of four Rolls Royce cars himself.

``I first came to BHU in 1982 to see two Rolls Royce cars of 1921 and 1927 models,'' he said. At that time, he also had a glimpse of the aircraft, but did not evince any interest in it. He simply took some snaps of the warplane and went back to England.

The desire to buy the aircraft came once he started learning flying in Australia. The year was 1993. He visited BHU in 1995 with the sole purpose of buying the aircraft. But there were a lot many hurdles.

In 1997, when BHU placed an advertisement in newspapers asking for tenders for its sale, Vacher also submitted his papers. His tender was accepted and further process of sale deed began. But, the deal did not materialise that time due to protests. He had to return empty handed. ``Finally I am here today to collect the aircraft,'' Vacher said with a sigh of relief.

Rolls-Royce fan finds a trophy in aged warplane
By Gaurav Saigal

VARANASI -- After 18 long years, British publisher Peter Vacher is all set to fulfill his dream. He will finally own a 50-year-old warplane lying as junk on the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) campus. Known for his hobby of collecting vintage Rolls-Royce cars, this will be his first possession of an aircraft. The reason -- it has a Rolls-Royce engine.

"It was the Rolls-Royce tag that has attracted me to go for whatever is left of this aircraft," Vacher told Indo-Asian News Service. "Initially I came to Varanasi in 1982, looking for two Rolls-Royce cars that I was told were up for sale here. It was by sheer accident that my friend John noticed this aircraft lying as junk."

Vacher took pictures of the aircraft but was not really impressed until he was told of the engine brand. "I was excited with the idea of adding the fifth item to my Rolls-Royce collection -- the four cars were 1914, 1922, 1927 and 1928 models.

"Once BHU decided to invite tenders for the deal, I put in my offer for £27,000 ($38,340) and there it was mine."

The plane, used in World War II by Britain, was given to India in 1943. After spending some time at the British air base in Santa Cruz (Mumbai), it landed in BHU as a study model for aeronautical engineering students. Since 1947, the plane had not attracted anyone until Vacher initiated a proposal for its purchase. A global tender was issued in March 1997 and the then vice chancellor, Hari Gautam, took an interest in selling the aircraft, which had been declared useless by the university technical staff.

The tender quoted by Vacher was passed but it took two more years to get the clearance of the BHU executive council. BHU has a flight-training center which was set up in March 1945. Vacher said he is now going to repair his latest prize.

"I have repaired many such engines and I am confident about putting this one, too, back in shape; of course the whole exercise may take four to five years as I believe in doing the entire repair job myself," said Vacher, a self-trained engineer.

But will he be able to fly it? "Well, if I fail due to my age, my son Julian, who is a commercial pilot in Virgin Atlantic, will take me for a ride," said 58-year-old Vacher. "Mind you, that flight will be the greatest one of my life."

Vacher has also written a book on vintage cars. The book, 'Rolls-Royce in Princely India,' describes the cars that belonged to the royal families that Vacher met during his 17 visits to India. And there is a special mention of the BHU warplane, which took him eight visits to acquire. He said: "I know the price I paid is high, but to fulfill a life's dream, it is nothing."

Historicaircraft taken in pieces

Varanasi Times

The Banaras Hindu University has allowed the British National to pack up the Royal Indian Air force plane used in world war II after receiving clearance of the union Government. The aircraft donated to BENCO , the engineering college of BHU in 1945, was grounded since then and never be air-bourn despite the fact that it was donate for educational purposes.

The Brutish national has broken the air craft in pieces and is ready to take then by truck to Mumbai from where he will ship then to England, where he would try to reassemble then and make efforts to fly it again. He has paid 27,000 pounds to BHU to purchase the air craft for which he has been endeavoring for past eight years.

Once in 1997, he came very near to have it, but the simmering opposition prevented BHU authorities from completing the sale. His latest efforts too came under opposition from antique lovers who wanted the air craft to be maintained as heritage, but they ultimately seem to have relented and resigned to create any fuss.

What type of aircraft is this?

Suresh Ambadi, an ex student of BHU now in US was the only one who had some info on my query about this particular aircraft. Suresh confirms that the aircraft was a low wing aircraft. but says its a two seater. I personally had a gut feel that the aircraft might be a Hawker Hurricane, based on reported sightings of a Hurricane in UP and Bihar, but have no confirmation on it.

"I was in bhu from 1973-78 and during that time there was an old fighter aircraft on the grounds of the engineering college. It sure seemd to be a single engine ww2 fighter, a low wing 2 seater. Maybe a spitfire or a hurricane, but I am not sure. It was, ofcourse, in very bad shape. "

Additional information