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Thursday, December 16, 2004

flights of fantasy

It was painful to read a recent news report on the sorry state of our flying clubs.
Being one of the aeronautical fraternity, it was saddening to learn that the Delhi Flying club has to rent out its premises for marriages and other such functions to arrange for finances to ensure meeting the barest minimum of expenses. It was even more depressing to know that the Bombay flying club, from where the father of Indian Aviation J R D Tata got his flying license and which trained RAF pilots in 1929 is heading for obscurity. On the plus side, it seems that young professionals (especially from the IT industry) are signing up for flying courses. Even though the rates have skyrocketed nearly 20 times in the last decade, these youngsters are willing to loosen their purses provided the flying clubs extend the necessary guidance. It is learnt that flying is emerging as a good outdoor activity for people who have sedentary life styles.
I go back to the late sixties when the Bengal flying club in Behala boasted of providing training to would-be fliers from the civil life as well as the NCC air wing. It had a couple of Tiger moths at its disposal and, while the trainee ground crew learnt about aeroplanes and its engines and instruments, the would-be fliers tried to master the art of flying along with their Instructors. It may be noted that the Tiger Moth was a biplane with wood and fabric construction!! Many of today’s Pilots who fly the Airbus-300 were trained by some flying club or another.
It is agreed that students who pass out from flying clubs today would have to learn many new things since the existing flying clubs are not equipped to provide the latest state-of-the-art modules. Aviation has undergone tremendous changes over the past fifty years or so. Every airline has to retrain their pilots. Still, the basics of maneuvers, take off, landing, banking, diving, and roll etcetera remain. First hand experiences of being actually airborne will certainly help individuals who possess flying club experience.
Of course, such a state of affairs could be set right if those in power agreed to extend necessary assistance either in the form of money or subsidies. Probably we would need an aviator in one of the key ministries to pull the correct strings!


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