A Cambodian man has achieved his life-long ambition of building a plane after watching YouTube videos, reports the BBC.
Car mechanic Paen Long started building his aircraft in secret last year, fulfilling his childhood dream of owning a jet. “I was afraid that people would make fun of me, so sometimes I worked at night,” he tells the BBC.
Long yearned to fly ever since he saw a helicopter at six years old. “I always dreamt about aircraft every night,” he says. “I always wanted to have my own plane.”
He trained as a mechanic in Svay Rieng, but it was a long time before he put his ambitions of flying into practise.
Aged 30, Long finally decided to attempt to build his own plane, using money he’d saved from running his own garage in Prey Veng. He was inspired, having spent three years watching YouTube videos about aircraft – from take-offs and landings to flight simulations and virtual plane factory tours.
It took him a year to build his masterpiece, using mostly recycled materials. Based on a WWII-era Japanese plane, Long’s aircraft had a 5.5m-wing span and featured a plastic chair with the legs sawn off for the seat, plus a car dashboard as the craft’s control panel.
The plane’s virgin voyage came on 8 March at 3pm. Local villagers turned up in their hundreds to watch him attempt to get airborne.
On a makeshift runway – a dirt track – Long executed his first take-off. He estimates the plane got 50m in the air before crashing to the ground.
“I was standing there and tears came down [my cheeks],” he tells the BBC. “I felt emotional, because I couldn’t bear all the things [the crowd] were saying to me.”
Despite being ridiculed, Long remains determined. His next project is to build a seaplane, which he plans to transport to Svay Rieng by truck before launching it from the Waiko River.
The amateur aviator reckons his original aircraft cost over $10,000 (£7,700) to create and he has already spent $3,000 (£2,300) on his next model. But Long says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I never thought about spending money on other things,” he says. “I never feel regret about spending all this money.”
His wife, Hing Muoyheng, worries about her husband – especially as they have two young sons – but has no choice but to accept his decision.
“I don’t know how planes work and he doesn’t have any experts to help him,” she tells the BBC. “I tried to ask him to stop a few times because I’m afraid, but he said he won’t cause any danger, so I have to go along with his idea.”