Michael Fabry, a pilot of Belgian origin, has logged over 4,000 hours in the air.
But never before has he received a rousing reception after a successful touchdown like the one accorded to him on Thursday afternoon at the Cochin International Airport.
When he stepped out after piloting the small six-seater amphibian aircraft to a halt at the airport’s Maintenance Repair and Overhaul hangar, a delegation led by the State Tourism Minister was waiting to receive him with bouquets.
A visibly overwhelmed Mr. Fabry, however, did not fail to smile and pose for photographs along with the Minister in front of the aircraft.
“The sight from the air was absolutely terrific,” said an excited Mr. Fabry, recounting his maiden flight over the Kerala air space. Of his more than 4,000 hours of flying experience, 250 hours were spent operating amphibian aircraft.
He had flown the seaplane leased by Kairali Aviation all the way from Dubai to Kochi. In between, he had a stay at New Delhi for maintenance and securing necessary clearances.
Mr. Fabry will be initially training three native pilots in handling seaplanes. He said that he was willing to train as many pilots as possible during his stay, the duration of which is yet to be decided. The Belgian said though the operator expected his service for three months, it could change any time.
Mr. Fabry said the duration to train pilots of normal aircraft could range from a week to two weeks. “The flying operations are more or less similar. They just need to get accustomed to the operations on water, which are completely different from air,” he said.
Seaplanes like the one he piloted to Kochi could land with about 250 meters of manoeuvre space on water after landing. But the space needed for take-off could vary from 500 meters to even a kilometre depending on the heat and humidity conditions.
Mr. Fabry had a hearty laugh when asked about the two rows fixed to the sides of the floats of the aircraft. “I am supposed to row my way to safety in a situation where the engine fails on landing on water and there is no co-pilot or passengers to give a helping hand. But I have no idea how they could help since there should be at least one more person to use the other row,” he said with a big grin.
The aircraft is officially allowed to fly up to an altitude in excess of 10,000 feet, however, while carrying tourists it is unlikely to go beyond 1,000 feet.
“That is ideal to let them have a sight of the beautiful scenery, which is the very purpose of the flight,” he said.
The aircraft brought here was almost new having logged just 100 hours. Made in America, it costs about $ 6,00,000. The two additional floats that help the aircraft move on water cost another $ 1,50,000.