U Sein Win is an engineer.
[Y]ou find him down a dirt track in Bhamo, a riverside town in Burma’s Kachin State close to the Chinese border. His house is not grand; in fact it’s just like any other house in Bhamo, except for one thing: there is a helicopter in his living room.
The initial inspiration he claims was from James Bond, namely The Man with the Golden Gun. With next to nothing to start from, he set to work on a dedicated personal project – a helicopter. Formed of a network of metal water pipes, teak propellers, the gun barrel of a WWII tank, and a bicycle seat, Sein Win’s helicopter has taken him years to build. He has had to make do with the materials around him, because he doesn’t have the funds or access to things like aluminium and fiberglass.
Sein Win hopes that one day he will be able to make the flight to Myitkyina, around 200km away. However, the 15-horsepower engine is not adequate to lift the craft off the ground. He has made several attempts to take off on a nearby airfield, but to no avail. The helicopter requires a super-powered engine with double the horsepower, which will cost him around $3,000 – a huge investment for someone like Sein Win.
Now into his 70’s, Sein Win sits in the center of his living room showing me glossy aviation magazines that people have sent him from all corners of the world. You can tell these parcels fill him with happiness, especially since he cannot buy helicopter magazines in Burma. There are not many tourists in Bhamo, and indeed access to the town has previously been limited for visitors, but Sein Win still operates his bicycle tour service which enables him to meet foreigners and bridge a valuable connection with the outside world.
Sein Win’s ultimate dream is not only to fly, but “to see the world before he is too old”. These images attempt to capture one man’s determined spirit and perseverance in pursuing a lifelong ambition. (Eva Clifford)