As guilty secrets go, Dr Vikas Shah’s is pretty big. It’s 74 metres long and weighs 316 tonnes, and the sight of it turns him back into a wide-eyed teen.

The Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and author is an avgeek – that's plane-spotter to most of us.

He stares into the sky with every passing aircraft, usually correctly identifying anything flying under 10,000 feet, and hangs out in jet-watching spots, or picks seats on flights so he can watch wings bending during turbulent flights. That 74 metres and 316 tonnes of tech and advanced materials is his current favourite airliner, the Airbus A350.

Why guilty? Well, aviation is hardly the most sustainable of industries – and his aero-bemused wife Rachael has just joined her husband's business in charge of sustainability strategy.

Great British Life: Plane-spotting has been a hobby since he was a young boy. Photo: Kirsty ThompsonPlane-spotting has been a hobby since he was a young boy. Photo: Kirsty Thompson

Aeroplanes became part of Vikas' life as a three-year-old, flying to and from India with his parents, and then as a ten-year-old taking light aircraft pleasure flights from Southport, around Blackpool Tower and back, and even briefly taking the controls.

‘From about age nine I couldn't imagine anything else as a hobby. On a typical weekend my dad would take me along to hang out in car parks at or near Manchester Airport, watching the planes.

‘I had a radio to listen to the conversations between pilots and air traffic control (ATC), I bought books about schedules, collected tail numbers, and when I learnt to drive that gave me the freedom to get out and watch them on my own,’ said Vikas.

‘It was a real escape. Some people went fishing, I went plane-spotting. And when consumer technology and the internet started to gather momentum it made it an even more accessible hobby: I really got into the detail – which airlines I wanted to fly with, what sort of aircraft they had, even down to which seat I wanted to sit in so I could get the best view of the wings flexing.

Great British Life: Vikas likes to have a view of wings flexing. Photo: Kirsty ThompsonVikas likes to have a view of wings flexing. Photo: Kirsty Thompson

‘And I'm obsessed with Microsoft Flight Simulator – it so accurately portrays the flying experience.’ How would he know? Well, he's also a now-lapsed private pilot's licence holder. ‘Flight simulators scratch my flying itch,’ the 42-year-old adds.

Vikas even enjoys the sensation probably voted the most terrifying by the fear-of-flying club: turbulence.

‘I love turbulence, watching the wings flexing - which is what they're meant to do. Frankly, the more you know the more comfortable you'll be with flying. You understand the significance of the strange movements and noises, and they become normal.’

As part of his understanding he's amassed a collection of aviation, aircraft and emergency procedure manuals, and will sit on his balcony in Didsbury hooked up to Flight Radar 24, which enables anybody with the app to track practically any plane anywhere, while listening to pilot-to-ATC conversations.

He's also become one of Greater Manchester's higher-flyers.

He started his first business, in technology, aged 14 and is now CEO of Swiscot Group, a textiles and commodities trading business. He's a venture-investor in a number of businesses internationally which also allows him to indulge in his avgeekism. He's also a non-executive board member of the UK Government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and a non-executive director of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Vikas was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List, and in 2021 became a Deputy Lieutenant of the Greater Manchester Lieutenancy. He's also an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration from the University of Salford.

Great British Life: Concorde is one of his all-time favourites aircraft. Photo: Kirsty ThompsonConcorde is one of his all-time favourites aircraft. Photo: Kirsty Thompson

Vikas has taught and lectured at universities around the world – more flexing-wing-watching opportunities – and holds an Honorary Professorship of Business at The Alliance Business School, University of Manchester (where he is a member of the advisory board) and is an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Lancaster University Management School.

As a philanthropist, Vikas sits as chair of In Place of War, an international peace-building and entrepreneurship NGO with 100 grassroots community organisations and a collective reach of more than 60 million people in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. He's a trustee of Mustard Tree which helps tens of thousands impacted by poverty and marginalisation across Greater Manchester, and a trustee of the We Are Family Foundation – musician Nile Rodgers’ global charity. Vikas is former president and sits on the board of TiE UK North, part of the world’s largest entrepreneurs' network, and was a digital advisor to the British Council.

He's also a published author. His 2021 book Thought Economics features his interviews with the people shaping the century, including Nobel prize winners, business leaders, politicians, artists and Olympians.

While his current favourite plane is the A350, his all-time favourites are the original "heavy" – the Boeing 747 and Concorde.

‘I like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, too. The Airbus A380 up close is just amazing but I'll pick my seat carefully if I'm in an A350 just to watch the wings flexing. The A350 and 787 are unusual experiences, they're just so fresh and quiet.’

Favourite flight? That's a tie between the approach into Lisbon with its stunning views, and the steep dive into London City Airport.

‘And as a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester it gives me great pride to see the investment going into our airport,’ he adds.

And looking over the near horizon there's a completely left-field investment about to kick off: a movie. Top secret for now, but there’s every chance Vikas could soon be contributing to your in-flight entertainment.