Nostalgia: APJ Abdul Kalam with Dinesh Keskar during his 2009 visit to Boeing’s Seattle plant – PICTURE COURTESY: BOEING
The sudden demise of former President APJ Abdul Kalam on July 27, left people mourning in India. Over 12,000km away in Seattle too, a pall of gloom descend on Boeing’s manufacturing plant, where the former President had charmed and impressed the employees during his visit in 2009. Later Dinesh Keskar, Senior Vice-President, Asia-Pacific and India, Boeing Aeroplanes called Kalam “a friend of a lot of people, including Boeing.”
During the 2009 visit, the former President had shown an interest in meeting Joe Sutter, the man who designed the double-decker aircraft, the Boeing 747, which is popularly known as the Jumbo Jet. “The former President knew of him (Sutter) and wanted to meet him,” recalls Keskar.
The 2009 visit to the Seattle plant was Kalam’s first to the Boeing’s manufacturing facility. The 88-year-old Sutter, often called the Father of the 747, was there. The two had a 20-minute meeting which Keskar too attended. “The former President wondered how Sutter had come up with the idea of the upper deck. Kalam also asked Sutter about the support he had in designing the Boeing 747,” Keskar recalled. Perhaps Kalam, who was involved with the Light Combat Aircraft project, was hoping to replicate the same in India. The Missile Man also gave a lecture to an audience that included scientists and top technologists during the Seattle visit. Kalam, however, was not just interested in the Jumbo Jet. During his visit he also got a first-hand feel of the first Boeing 787 aircraft, the long-range, wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner . The 787 aircraft that Kalam saw in Seattle was the first of the 27 aircraft that are joining the Air India fleet.
Kalam was impressed with the aircraft, particularly its wings. The crystal model of an aeroplane that Boeing presented Kalam to commemorate the visit is still displayed in Delhi.
Kalam’s relationship with Boeing did not end at Seattle. He also visited the Boeing research centre in Bengaluru. Keskar says that the former President spent over three hours talking to the 15 people present, inquiring about their work. Many of the people were picked from the National Aeronautics Lab, where Kalam was the Chairman of the organisation’s research council.
It was during this visit that Kalam said that one of the things Boeing must do is to get India into the aeroplane market. “He was obviously very interested in getting Boeing to do something in India in terms of building an aeroplane in India. We are still working on smaller pieces of that. We have not gone to the stage of the aeroplane but that was his vision,” Keskar added.
Source…ASHWINI PHADNIS ….www.thehindubusinessline.com