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Naveen Frank Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Naveen Frank loves to collect airplane models. So much so that he takes it to work with him. Literally.

The Assistant Travel Manager at the Sharjah based Crescent Petroleum Company has 149 airplane models (at last count) in his office, disp-layed neatly on a shelf custom-made to support his precious collection.

This was a combined effort of both his own commitment to his treasure and that of his organisation to support his deep-rooted passion. ‘My bosses were kind enough to help me build this shelf in the office to display my collection. I don’t have the space for it at home, and neither the facilities to manage my collection with care,’ explains Naveen, glancing proudly at his collection in his office.

Amongst the many planes in different sizes, colours and shapes are some rare pieces such as the erstwhile Concorde from British Airways and the European Carrier Lauda Air. In addition to the Expo 2020 collection, he also has a rare Emirates Airlines A380-800 model of the Collingwood Football Club.

Some of his other prized collections include models of the Delta DL3, the first Delta Airlines passenger plane, the Antonov AN-225 Mriya – the transport aircraft that was destroyed in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the Airforce One, a collector’s item. He has also acquired off-the-shelf aircraft models of private jets as part of his collection. This includes the Brazilian Embraer Legacy 600, The Canadian Bombardier Challenger 600 and 650 series.

If he has any regrets at all, he feels he should have acquired models of the renowned Indian airplane companies like Indian Airlines and Jet Airways before they either merged or shut down. ‘I took it for granted, and now stand at a loss. Hence these days I try and acquire as many models as I can, as and when I come across them,’ he explains.

In all he has aircraft models of over 32 countries on his shelf, and approximately 120 airlines and airline companies. His most recent acquisitions are the Boeing Dreamliner and the Airbus A-320.

When the plans took off

Travel has always been a part of Naveen’s life; in one form or the other. Born in the southern Indian city of Mangalore, he has always been fascinated with aircrafts and airports. However it was a gift that defined the hobbyist in him to pursue something he would carry for several years to come.

Around 30 years ago, while on a visit to the bustling city of Mumbai to enjoy his honeymoon, his maternal uncle, the late Dennis Dsouza gifted him a model of KLM aircraft. Something in his young mind sparked the passion, and this simple gesture became a stepping stone to his three-decade-long hobby. The precious KLM model still stands proud in his collection, preserved with love and care.

He was at the time working in Mangalore. After serving as a travel agent for 15 years, Naveen moved to the UAE in 1997 and joined the travel office of Crescent Petroleum, enabling him to travel to over 20 countries in as many years. ‘These frequent travels also helped me get aircraft models from various Duty Free shops and onboard some of the aircrafts.’

Initially, he had them stocked up at home. However, with the arrival of his son who was curious about airplanes as little boys would have, Naveen, fearing that they might be damaged, sought a safer place for his treasure.

plane collector
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

The Art of Preservation

Initially, Naveen received a lot of models as complementary gifts during his travels as part of work. Once his collection began to grow in size, he decided to actively start buying them as well.

Friends and family are aware of Naveen’s passion so much so that on his birthday and on Christmas more models fly in in the form ofpresents and gifts.

Naveen is happy about it and feels these miniatures and models make for a more precious gift for him than anything else he would get.

The 59-year-old lives in Sharjah with his wife Yvonne. The couple have two children, Navya and Yonden, who incidentally do not share their father’s passion for collection model airplanes.

Naveen is not stressed about the future of his planes. He knows they will find a safe home; if not with him then in the secure hands of someone as trust worthy.

‘It would highly depend on where we end up retiring to. As much as I would love to have my collection with me, I wouldn’t jeopardise its safe-keeping if we have restrictions in space.’