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One of the early air races between India and England took place in 1930. Four pioneers of Indian aviation including JRD Tata flew for a prize of 500 pounds put up by the Aga Khan. One of the motley crew was Man Mohan Singh, a Sikh student from Bristol University, who despite having little flying experience and not being particularly ‘adept at map reading’, tried thrice. On the first try his Gypsy Moth force-landed twice in France and finally crashed into a hill in Italy. He escaped unhurt and went on to try again. An Angel in the Cockpit (Roli; Rs 395) by Vijaypat Singhania is an account of his equally crazy, record-breaking microlight flight from London to Delhi. In 1988 few people had heard of microlights, and even fewer people had undertaken cross-continental journeys in one of these contraptions. Singhania had very little experience on microlights, and he barely fit into the one he was flying. Unlike Man Mohan Singh, Singhania was an experienced pilot, and fairly good at reading maps. However, like Man Mohan Singh he was in a race (against Brian Miltons thirty-four day record). And his journey was equally eventful—his avionics packed up a little beyond Corfu, the fuel tanks sprang many a leak, red-tape nearly kept him in Egypt, and a morbid fear of sharks kept him in a constant state of panic over ocean. This book is honest and delightful in its detail, sprinkled with anecdotes and history, and packed with adventure. A fun read.
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