Akaki Lekiachvili started the project out of passion but is now using his finished replica to raise funds for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America's Georgia branch.
Akaki Lekiachvili works as a physician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the last six years, he has dedicated his free time to building a nearly life-sized replica of a "Star Wars" X-wing starfighter. Now that the project is completed, he revealed he was ready to use it for good, "to fight the evil empire, just like in the movies." To Lekiachvili, that means using the replica to support Ukraine. He rolls the X-wing replica out of his garage so folks can sit inside it and take photos with it. People pay "very good money" for the opportunity, he says, which he donates to the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America's Georgia branch, CNN reports.
Lekiachvili is a self-proclaimed "tinkerer" with a passion for science. He said in an interview with the news outlet, "Ever since I was a child, I always wanted to be aerospace engineer, but my parents guided me to go to med school." He began the project in his garage—until the spaceship became too big. So he built an X-wing hangar in his backyard. When he first started working on the replica, he had to do tons of research, including rewatching scenes of the X-wing and studying screenshots from "Star Wars."
He spent the next six years designing, tinkering, soldering, welding and building. Today, the replica is about two-thirds the scale of the original and is operated by a wireless remote control that manipulates its wings and cockpit window. The spaceship can taxi on the ground at approximately 4 miles per hour. In addition to this, its jet thrusters light up and open and close. In the cockpit, there are two cameras as well as a targeting system just like the one Luke Skywalker used to destroy the Death Star. The replica even comes with its own inflatable R2D2. While it does not fly or shoot lasers, it does feature laser buttons with sounds.
Lekiachvili discovered the "Star Wars" movies in the 1980s when he was a teenager. He was particularly drawn to the theme of good versus evil. So it comes as no surprise that he would want to use his replica to help raise money for Ukraine. "We roll out the X-wing and people line up," he said. "Kids want to sit in and push buttons, take pictures, and donate. We have been raising very good money." In the near future, he hopes to partner with a nonprofit or entity that can help him auction off the unique "Star Wars" memorabilia with all the money going toward helping out those in Ukraine. He affirmed, "I do believe that if we continue pushing, we are going to come up with [the] right strategy to make an impact. It is a huge, huge tragedy. Lots of people are suffering and it is a really good opportunity to help."