NAVIN BALA

SPECIALIST AIR ARM

INDIA

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I was born into aviation many moons ago, and as the kid of an aviator I was brought up surrounded by all kinds of facets on aviation.

Watching MiG-21s flying low over our home (as a happy 8 year old role playing “Star Trek” on the roof of his home with a chimney stack doubling-up as Capt Kirk’s chair), was the best memory I have.

I started sticking tiny bamboo-like barks onto a stick to make a MiG21 in 1982. That would essentially be my first model airplane.

As we moved to a metro city like Bombay around 1985 and Dad started flying overseas, kits were introduced to me in the form of an F111 and a MiG-21 in 1:144 scale. Later I received a birthday gift of two Revell Germany 1:48 kits: a Spitfire and a Bf109: incidentally they had a unique never-seen-since retractable gear mechanism, that was simple and very sturdy.

In college I enrolled in the National Cadet Corps of my city and got introduced to balsa model building making a Su-7 and an F-14 among a few others.

Then our family moved to the US where I started building models in earnest and built over 250 models mainly Luftwaffe, IJN/A, RAF, RN etc., mainly in 1:72 and WW2.
Some of the techniques I developed were basic weathering with sponges and chopped bristles on flat brushes but nothing fancy.   Then I started helping Griffin Models in the US to help refurbish some of his wood models which I was thrilled to do in my spare time and Brad Griffin kindly gave me some of the models that I had worked on.

Fast forward a few years later into a steady job and a family, and I started really getting into things. This was when I met some true legends like Murli, Jagan, Polly sir, Vinu, and many others who brought us together in a small band of Indian Modellers ushering in a new era of Indian Subcontinent builds. This would not have been possible without Mick Burton’s exceptional Bright Spark decals, which are now rarer than “unobtanium”.

Needless to say my main builds are still MiG-21s and IAF fighters. My father had, as both a Test and Fighter pilot, flown a myriad of types ranging from Sabres, Mystères and MiGs to Nomads, Antonovs, Superconnies,  Liberators, HAL Basants , Mils and Alouettes.    My goal was to build a line-up of his planes and, in that direction, I went and experienced the usual side tracks of “Oh how pretty an airplane” and there I go with that build. I currently have the usual obsessed-modeller’s esoteric stash of models which I doubt I would manage to build in this lifetime but it gives a warm feeling to look at and admire!

I have gained a lot of knowledge from the Indian Scale Modellers’ group, who are extraordinarily welcoming and pleasant modellers, as well as possessing a treasure trove of knowledge. I would love to expand my knowledge and share what I can with a wider          community and am excited about being a part of Asian Air Arms Research Group. Since the first Newsletter I received, I’ve seen many eye-popping articles and builds. I look forward to giving advice to fellow members on Indian military aviation: if you’d like information on this topic, just complete the form below and I'll get back to you..

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