103ISC: India's first aviator Prof Setti's contributions hover around Mysuru

Written by: Dr Anantha Krishnan M
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With the curtain set to rise on 103rd Indian Science (103ISC) on January 3, the city's links with Science and Technology are once again jettisoning out of the annals of history.

India's first aviator and aircraft-maker Prof Venkata Subba Setti was born at Shivarampet in Mysuru.
On Thursday, this Correspondent reconnected with Prof Setti's great grandson G N Jayaprakash, a scientist with Gas Turbine Research Establishment in Bengaluru, after reporting about him for the first time in 2003.

Setti 1

Records provided by Jayaprakash show that Prof Setti was born on December 28, 1879. "Prof Setti was involved in the design of Avro-504, the first trainer aircraft of the world in 1912 and later flown it for the first time in 1913," says Jayaprakash.

Got Technical Scholarship from Maharaja of Mysore

Prof Setti did his education at Wesleyan Mission High School, Mysore and later passed matriculation from Madras University in 1896.

With a Technical Scholarship from the then Maharaja of Mysore, he did his further education at Madras Engineering College and Thomson Engineering College, Roorkee.

Setti 2

Later he joined the Mysore state government as a probationary sub-assistant engineer in 1906 and served for two years before heading to England on a scholarship in 1909. Prof Setti chased his passion for planes in England and joined A V Roe and Co (Avro) in 1911.

Modern Review' features Prof Setti in 1912

Prof Setti was featured in the popular ‘Modern Review' magazine in 1912 with the title: ‘The First Indian Aviator.'

He was also a recipient of a specially-minted medal from Messrs A V Roe & Co. The Company described the ace plane-maker from India as "persevering, industrious and an expert in matters of aviation."

Jayaprakash is in the possession of an appreciation letter from Avro (dated March 12, 1912) sent to Prof Setti. The letter terms Prof Setti as an expert who was good at tuning plane engines in addition to designing them.

"I am happy to hear that the 103ISC is being held in Mysuru to commemorate the Centenary Year of University of Mysore. India is a land of science. Mysore itself never lagged behind in its contribution towards modern science through innovation of missile (Tippu Sultan) and aircraft (Prof S V Setty)," says Jayaprakash.

Setti 3

"I am delighted both personalities have their roots in Mysuru," he adds.

Jayaprakash has scanned images of Modern Review sourced from the magazine publishers in Kolkata. He has over the years also gathered all evidences related to Prof Setti from India and abroad.

Closely associated with Avro-504 project

Prof Setti was closely associated with Avro-504 project which flew for the first time in 1913. Interestingly, today Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is the only company in the world that manufactures Avros under license, at its Transport Aircraft Division in Kanpur.

After his return to India in 1913, Prof Setty was appointed as the first Superintendent of School of Mechanical Engineering. According to Jayaprakash this paved the way for the University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering, Bengaluru -- one of the oldest technical institutions in India.

His life was cut short in 1918 following a pneumonia attack. He along with his wife and a child died at Bangalore's Victory Hospital, leaving three daughters behind.

Prof Setty is an unsung hero of Indian aviation, but his family members continue with their efforts in collecting all information of a passionate plane-maker from Mysuru.

Photos courtesy: G N Jayaprakash

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. Currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow with University of Mysore, he is a Consulting Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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