Polly Singh has thoughtfully sent excerpts from a book “Design for Flight” by Heinz Conrad on Kurt Tank.
An interesting account of the designer explaining the Marut to Pandit Nehru.
‘In October 1958 Tank met President Nehru for the first time at the German Embassy in New Delhi. A reception was given in honour of the German Economic Minister, Professor Ehrhardt, at which all the leading figures of the Indian Republic were present. “I’ve already heard of you” said Nehru, turning to Tank after a short European greeting. “When will your aircraft fly?”
“A full scale model of the prototype in wood without jets”, Tank explained after searching for the equivalent terms in English, “will fly at the beginning of 1959. We want to complete the test flights before the monsoon arrives, in other words, by mid-June The prototype itself fitted with jets…..” Tank hesitated for a moment. In india it was so difficult to give fixed dates and yet it was so important to encourage, to create an atmosphere of confidence. “The prototype…..perhaps in two years. No….” he corrected himself immediately, “let us say in 18 months.” When Nehru listens attentively his lower lip protrudes a little. He toyed with the red rose which he wore in the third buttonhole of his white ashkahn. “As long as that?” He seemed disappointed.
Nehru did not wait eighteen months, not even six months. On 6th February, 1959, the President appeared accompanied by the Maharaja of Mysore and his suite very early in the morning at the Hindustan Aircraft Works in Bangalore. He made his way to the assembly hangar and asked to see the new machine. The new full scale wood model of the prototype was ready and waiting to undergo its airworthiness tests.
The Prime Minister’s visit had been expected.
The few Europeans present shook hands with Nehru; the others standing in a circle greeted him in the Hindu manner – the simple hygienic placing of one’s own palms together and after measured bows in all directions raising them to the forehead. “Although great demands are made on my time and I can only stay a few moments, I took this opportunity of having a look at your work.”
“Delighted,” replied Tank, leading him over to the test machine. At times in his explanations he had to search for words in his attempt to explain very complicated details simply. Nehru listened with his head slightly bowed, his right hand in his ashkhan and the left holding a handkerchief crumpled into a ball behind his back.
Tank showed him everything, explained everything. They walked round the machine, climbed the trolley steps and looked into the pilot’s cockpit from both sides. The incredible number of instruments, knobs, switches, levers, leads and counters on the instrument panel were bewildering to any layman. On the ground once more, Nehru finally shed his taciturnity.
“Dr Tank, ” he said very quietly and politely, “I understand absolutely nothing of science and technology. Both these subjects are the province of scientists and engineers, not of politicians. The point is….” – he looked round the circle and raised his voice – “I want the scientists and engineers to help my people in their progress. This is my main interest because I am one of them.”
So he understands nothing of science, thought Tank. But there must be something about this aircraft I can explain so that more or less anybody could understand, scientist or not. He led Nehru to a certain spot in front of the machine. “If you look along her towards the tail you will immediately notice that the fuselage has a slim waist before broadening out again behind. This waist is the result of long experience and is known in aerodynamics as the ‘area rule’.” Tank cleared his throat almost inaudibly and added: “To-day in view of its similarity with other well known curves we call it the ‘Marilyn Monroe rule’.”
Nehru grinned; he had understood.
A little later, after his “namaste” to his companions, when he removed his hands from his forehead, his eyes wore the radiant smile which invariably enchants his friends and disarms his enemies.
Thank you, Dr. Tank,” he said, taking his leave with all his charm, “for having spared me your time and taken the trouble to explain everything to me.”
Tank bowed a little deeper than he is wont to do over the small hand which Nehru extended to him and replied: “Thank you, sir, for having come to see me.” ‘