The Incredible Story of Wing Commander Padmanabha Gautam and the Canberra Plane
Local hobby shop, Chester Model Centre received an unexpected customer enquiry all the way from Bangalore, South India. Arun Swaminathan was looking for a specific and rather elusive model plane to add to his collection in memory of his late Uncle – Wing Commander Padmanabha Gautam – a highly decorated Indian Air Force pilot who flew the English Electric Canberra plane during his distinguished career.
Paul Boyland, the owner of Chester Model Centre, says, “We’ve been running our independent shop in Chester for over 10 years now and we couldn’t do it without so much local support. In fact, we’ve known some of our customers for decades – longer than we’ve been on the high street.
Having said that, the modelling community is global and we are really happy to help Arun get his hands on the model Canberra plane that his Uncle Gautam had flown. Arun contacted us initially by email from Bangalore.”
Arun says, “I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you. This model means a lot to me especially as this English Electric Canberra has been etched in my heart after my Uncle Gautam, the Indian Air Force Canberra Ace, was killed in a crash on 25th Nov 1972.
My father always wanted to take me to Poona with my Uncle Gautam so he could put me in the cockpit of every aircraft under his command. Unfortunately, my Uncle died before this trip happened.
When I miss him, I go and stand by the Canberra at the HAL Museum near my house in Bangalore.
I am writing his biography and this model will feature as my most treasured model in my vast collection.” Arun is hoping to make a trip to the UK in the future with a visit to Chester Model Centre on the top of his list of places to see.
Paul says, “We are quite a traditional hobby shop I suppose, and giving people a hands on experience on the high street is really at the core of what we do. We have been digital dinosaurs in the past, but we realise it’s important that we evolve as a retailer.
We launched our website during the first lockdown (Spring 2020) and are now active on social media. We’ve been contacted by customers from Australia, America, France and Italy. The attention from across the globe has prompted us to think bigger. We’re currently making arrangements to make international delivery available to our customers and hope to have this service up and running in the next few weeks. As a local independent shop, this opens up a big market for us!”
The English Electric Canberra plane is a popular model for enthusiasts around the world, and it is thanks to Wg Cdr Gautam’s story that we can appreciate this incredible aircraft. You can learn more about his life and what makes the Canberra so special by visiting Chester Model Centre’s website.
“Our thanks go to Arun Swaminathan for sharing his uncle’s incredible story with us and providing the photos that bring this history to life,” remarks Paul Boyland. According to Arun Wing Commander Padmanabha Gautam is, to date, the most decorated (for Gallantry) pilot of the Indian Air Force. His records along with his two brothers make them the Most Decorated Family of the Indian Air Force.
Don’t forget to support the many local businesses of Chester. You can see Chester Model Centre’s full collection of hobbies in-store or online at www.chestermodelcentre.com, or by following @ChesterModelCentre on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter where you will hear more amazing customer stories, ever-changing new and second-hand stock and much more happy hobby content.