Moulding a passion for replica fighter planes

Former Air Force official Bui Xuan Thanh started making replicas of fighter planes in the 1970s.

Moulding a passion for replica fighter planes
PAINSTAKING: Thanh dedicates his replica planes to pilots who lost their lives protecting the nation, or for distinguished guests or heads of state on special occasions. VNS Photo Nguyen Thanh

Over 40 years, he has created thousands of replicas of fighters which have become souvenirs for many veterans, politicians, heads of state and collectors.

In his house located on Le Trong Tan Street, Thanh Khe District in the central city of Da Nang, the most important positions are dedicated to his most sophisticated beautiful replicas.
“I might be the only person in Vietnam who makes replicas of fighters from aluminium,” Khanh says.

Born in the northern province of Phu Tho, he used to work maintaining fighter jets, weapons and machines for the Air Force Division when his factory was still located in the north.

When the northern border war broke out in 1979, he moved to Da Nang where his company was relocated.

As a skilled worker, he was assigned to verify product quality.

Thanks to his meticulousness and patience, he was assigned to making replicas of fighters for exhibitions or as souvenirs for the company.

At first he used mica, but then due to material shortages, he switched to aluminium that was both cheaper and more eye-catching.

Making a replica of a fighter is not a piece of cake. Thanh still has photos and detailed designs of fighters of various kinds like the MIG15, MIG17 and Su 22M4 aircraft, which are collectables.
Turning a design into a realistic replica takes time. To start, he creates moulds based on the designs of each fighter jet. Each mould is a masterpiece.

The moulds taken to the workshop have the body and wings pre-cast.

Other details like rockets attached to the wings are also cast in their own moulds, depending on the size.

Assembling the parts takes the most time. Thanh has to sharpen each part thoroughly so they are smooth and shiny, which demands patience. It can take him months to complete an order.
Among the dozens of replicas that he has made, the replicas of Su 22M4 fighters with swing wings are the most sophisticated.

Moulding a passion for replica fighter planes
EYE ON IT: Thanh is often seen in his small workshop wearing glasses and absorbed in every small detail of the replicas.

 
Meaningful gift

 

Thanh is often seen in his small workshop wearing his glasses and absorbed in creating every small detail of the replicas.

He does not remember how many replicas he has made in the past 42 years.

“It is countless,” he says.

After finishing an order for 79 replicas from former comrades, he immediately received another.

The replicas are sometimes gifted to veterans or distinguished guests and heads of state.

Thanh’s special customers are pilots who ask him to make replicas of the fighters they flew.

On the first page of the record of the 45th anniversary of Factory A32 is a photo of late Party General Secretary Do Muoi pictured with managers of the factory during his visit in 1997.
It was the first time he had presented his work replica to a party leader, which left him with immense pride.

Thanh was also asked by the factory to make nearly 300 replicas as gifts for the guests.

“It was the first time I'd created so many replicas,” he recalls.

“I’m so happy that many people still trust my skills. I will continue my work as long as I’m still healthy.” VNS

Nguyen Thanh

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