Saturday, November 02, 2013

Behala gets new pilot school

KOLKATA: Nearly three decades after the last student qualified for a pilot's license from the flight training institute in Behala, a new private institute has taken wings, rekindling hopes of those aspiring to fly.

Sitaram Yechury, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Civil Aviation, flagged off the flight training institute by Trans Bharat Aviation Pvt Ltd, a non-scheduled operator that has helicopter operations in north India and fixed wing services in Bhubaneswar. The institute will train around 30 students at a time and charge Rs 25-30 lakh for the 18-month course that includes 350 hours of ground training and 200 hours of flight training.

While the state government-run Flying Training Institute has been non-functional for over two decades, another private player's bid to operate an institute encountered turbulence and was grounded in a couple of years. Camellia Aviation was undone by a revised regulation by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation that made training in twin engine aircraft mandatory for commercial pilot's license. Camellia tried to pull a fast one by purchasing a scrap. It had hoped to meet the DGCA norm in letter when it purchased the rusting junk that had been a plane a couple of years earlier and used to dump arms in Purulia. But the aviation watchdog acted tough and grounded the institute.

Now, Trans Bharat Aviation Training Institute plans to fill the void, not just in Kolkata but the entire east. "There is no flight training facility in the entire region. That is indeed sad given that the Behala Flying Club has produced so many sterling pilots in the past. MLA group chairman Madan Lal Agarwal approached me nearly four years ago, expressing his intent to start an institute and has been remarkably resilient in the quest. I am glad the institute has finally taken shape," Yechuri said. The institute has received a go-ahead by DGCA.

Apart from three two-seater single-engine Cessna planes, Trans Bharat deputy director wing commander (retired) Subir Sen said the company would fly down a Piper Seneca multi-engine aircraft from Delhi when required. He though, acknowledged that rising fuel costs and hiring and retaining chief pilot instructor, pilot instructor in-charge and quality manager was a challenge.

Yechury endorsed Agarwal's plan to apply for a helicopter pilot training course, pointing out that several accidents involving VIPs had occurred due to lack of proper training. Trans Bharat, which has helicopters operating in north India and the northeast, plans to introduce a helicopter service from Kolkata to Gangasagar during the fair in January.


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