Jordanian flies over the world from a homemade basement cockpit
AMMAN: Jordanian Muhammad Malhas has long dreamed of becoming a pilot. Now 76, he hovers above the clouds in a cockpit he built in his basement.
“Since the dawn of time, man has observed birds in the sky and dreams of flying freely,” Malhas told AFP.
As a child he loved to fly his kite and wondered how something so fragile made of paper could climb so high.
“It was then that the urge and love to fly began to obsess me,” he added, sitting in the flight simulator, a replica of the cockpit of a Boeing 737-800, which ‘he spent three years building from scrap metal and second-hand items.
“My heart was still suspended in the sky and my dream was to become a pilot, but the circumstances did not allow it,” he said.
He graduated in hospital management from a university in London in 1969 and went to work with his father at the Amman hospital that the family had founded.
But Malhas kept his dreams alive, devouring books on aviation, aeronautical engineering, and guides on learning to fly.
He even joined the Royal Jordanian Air Academy in 1976, getting up before dawn to take flight lessons in a small Piper plane, before heading to work. He obtained his license two years later.
For nearly a decade he was a member of the Jordanian Gliding Club, flying away every weekend.
And in 2006, he was flying virtually using flight software he downloaded to his computer.
He joined a worldwide network of flight simulator fans, where they could fly in near real conditions led by an air traffic controller.
“We were a group of about 30-40 friends, aviation enthusiasts from different countries discussing the flight virtually in our free time.
“We used to fly to Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad… even Great Britain and the United States. Sometimes we sat for six hours at computers like we were stealing real flights, ”he told AFP.
Now retired, his lifelong passion has taken a new turn.
Sitting in front of three large screens, equipped with switches and indicators, in his homemade cockpit, Malhas has the world at his fingertips.
All parts were purchased from local markets. The chairs were originally part of a bus.
The screens show images of clouds and sky above, rivers, forests and deserts below. He can even choose the weather outside.
The work lasted three years, with the help of electronics friends. And it cost about six thousand dinars ($ 8,400).
His friend Ahmed Fares, 25, helped install switches and indicators that “meet the conditions of the plane, so that it looks like a real plane in flight.”
Sometimes his wife joins Malhas in the cockpit.
“I think it’s amazing to fly sitting at home and feel the joy of flying around the world,” he said.