A Young Inventor Created a DIY Helicopter. It Killed Him

This is a tragic reminder for all of us.
Brad Bergan
An instant before the helicopter incident (left), and aftermath (right).1, 2

Modern vehicles can be deadly.

Earlier this week, a young man named Sheikh Ismail Sheikh Ibrahim of 24 years who aimed to become a successful inventor suffered fatal injuries. His DIY helicopter experienced a catastrophic system failure in the Fulsawangi village of Mahagaon tehsil, in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, according to an initial report from a local news source.

There was a video recording of the horrific event, which for obvious reasons we won't embed here, but, for those who want to see what went wrong, follow the link, and consider yourself warned of gratuitous images of bodily harm.

DIY helicopter pilot experienced a fatal catastrophe

Ibrahim had dropped out of school in class 8 (eighth grade), and then set to work with his older brother Mussavir in his gas welding workshop. It wasn't long before Ibrahim learned how to make coolers, in addition to almirahs and other domestic objects of conventional bliss. Then Ibrahim watched a movie called "3 Idiots", and took a cue from a character called "Rancho", and set out to make his village Fulsawangi a household name. Employing his skills from working with his brother at the workshop, Ibrahim decided to build his own helicopter from scratch. But, instead of learning the old-fashioned way (in a school, or with many years of private studying from primary sources and engineering manuals), he got his information from YouTube videos.

Relatedly, we can't recommend building a DIY helicopter from videos on YouTube. There are plenty of companies, selling helicopter kits, not to mention legitimate textbooks on the flight dynamics of helicopters. While it isn't impossible to build a helicopter by watching YouTube videos, it's important to understand that the video media economy is primarily dedicated to maximizing views and monetizing videos — and isn't intended as a replacement for a substantial education, whether via private study, military training, or a legitimate university or college course.

Understandably, Ibrahim's DIY helicopter was a colossal effort that took Ibrahim two years, after which he had all the parts he needed to build a DIY helicopter. His friend, Sachin Ubale, said the now-deceased man manufactured the prototype of a new, single-seater helicopter using steel pipes, in addition to a Maruti 800 engine, according to the local report. Ubale also said that Ibrahim intended to debut his DIY helicopter to the public, on the occasion of India's Independence Day. But on Tuesday night, Ibrahim decided to execute a final test-run of his DIY creation. And, while his friends gathered to see him lift into the night sky, Ibrahim started the engine.

Seconds later, tragedy struck.

The DIY helicopter pilot was not wearing a helmet

As depicted in the video (linked above, we won't link twice), the blades of the tail rotor snapped free, with pieces flailing into the main rotor blades, which in turn caused the main rotor blades to snap, sending a piece of metal into the cockpit, where it hit Ibrahim at a fatal velocity. "Ismail wanted to exhibit the helicopter to the public on Independence Day this year and so he decided to test the flying machine near his workshop," said Ubale to the local news source. "On Tuesday night, he occupied the pilot seat and started the engine as some of his friends watched in awe. Even before anyone could understand what was happening, a piece of the broken blade slashed Ismail's throat and he collapsed to the ground."

"He used to test the functioning of the chopper very often," added Ubale. "Earlier, he had been successful in lifting the helicopter 5 feet above the ground. It was his final trial on Tuesday." It seems that sadly, Ibrahim did not wear a helmet or headphones during this test run of the DIY helicopter, which are just two of many, many safety protocols any pilot must take to avoid taking a serious risk on a prototype vehicle of any kind. But, even with a helmet, he probably would not have survived, since the blade hit his throat, not his head. After the injury, Ibrahim bled profusely as his body slumped out of the cockpit. His friends rushed him to the hospital, but, unfortunately, it was too late. We can't say for sure whether the incident was due to an engineering error or a freak accident, but this is surely a tragedy for all of us to remember.

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