NABATIEH, Lebanon: Ali Fakih is hoping that Lebanon’s car registration department will approve his handmade vehicle as road-worthy, but it’s not a sure thing – especially as his vehicle is actually a replica model warplane.
Fakih, a former first adjutant who worked in the military administration for two decades, has spent four hours every day for four months putting together his creation, which closely resembles the French Mirage model used by the Army.
In the Nabatieh village of Kfartibnit, Fakih receives regular visits from young boys and teenagers who want to have their photograph taken in front of it and watch him drive it through the surrounding streets.
Climbing the ladder into the cockpit, Fakih turns on the engine and steers his giant bird into the neighboring alleyway and along the village streets. As he drives, he toots the plane’s horn at spectators.
“At first, I made the designs and drawings then I got the engine of a motorbike of 250 cc and installed it,” Fakih explains. “After that I started working on the metal structure. The hardest part was putting together the structure, designing the wings and then joining them through riveting, a technique that is commonly used to assemble the outer structure of both civilian planes and warplanes.”
“Afterward, I installed rubber wheels capable of enduring very heavy weights so that I could start assembling the cockpit. I installed the steering stick and I added the clocks that show the temperature, the oil pressure, the number of rotations per minute of the engine and the fuel level.”
He also equipped his plane with fake rockets and lights.
“Right now I’m working on the passenger seat,” he adds. “Drawing, art and working metal by hand are my hobbies.”
Although the 4.5-meter-long vehicle can’t fly, it can reach ground speeds of up to 80 kph using 20 liters of fuel for every 350 km.
As he speaks about his plane, Fakih never stops praising the Army, saying a nation without a military is worthless. “I love the Army and that’s why I have made a replica of the warplane it uses and painted it in the colors of the Army uniform. I have great respect for the Army because it is the backbone of the nation.”