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State’s flying school gets off the ground

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High-flying dreams: With the boom in the aviation sector, youngsters aspire to find a place for themselves in the cockpit, but what deters many of them from realising their dream is the high fees charged by flying schools.
High-flying dreams: With the boom in the aviation sector, youngsters aspire to find a place for themselves in the cockpit, but what deters many of them from realising their dream is the high fees charged by flying schools.

S. ANIL RADHAKRISHNAN

The Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology in Thiruvananthapuram aims to mould professionals for the burgeoning aviation sector of the country.

The rising income levels and a growing global interest in India are expected to result in a 21.6 per cent annual growth in air-passenger traffic over the next five years. Indian airports will have to deal with 256.5 million travellers by 2012-end, say statistics compiled by the Airports Authority of India.

Aircraft movements are projected to rise nearly 17 per cent between now and 2011-12. Domestic travel is expected to see a higher growth of around 24 per cent during this period.

An estimated 480 aircraft are expected to join the country’s present fleet of 310 by 2012. The booming aviation sector is plagued by a severe shortage of qualified pilots. It is estimated that Indian carriers alone will need 3,000 pilots in the next two years.

Flying schools have sprouted across the country to capitalise on the demand for pilots. The Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology, set up by the Kerala government in the vicinity of the Thiruvananthapuram international airport, aims to provide quality training to young aspirant pilots who wish to become future professionals in the burgeoning aviation sector.

Originally incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956, the Kerala Flying Club was inaugurated on September 16, 1959. It was rechristened the Kerala Aviation Training Centre in 1980. Later, in 1981, the State government took over the institution. All of its assets and liabilities, including the employees, were brought under the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology with effect from 2006.

Applications invited

The academy has now obtained the mandatory approval from the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for re-commencing flying training. The academy has invited applications from candidates desirous to become pilots. The classes of the first batch will commence in June. The last date for submitting applications in April 30. For details, visit aviationkerala.org.

Those aged 17 or above who have passed pre-degree, Plus Two or equivalent examinations with physics and mathematics from a recognised university or Board may apply. Those who have appeared for the examination can also apply. But they will have to produce proof of having cleared the examination before the commencement of flying.

The selection will be based on a two-and-a-half hour written test (objective type) comprising physics, mathematics, English and general awareness. Those who secure 50 per cent marks in the written test will be called for an interview.

The successful candidates will have to undergo a medical examination under a doctor approved by the DGCA. A merit list will be prepared subsequent to the medical examination. The final selection will be based purely on merit.

Flying training for 200 hours will be on aircraft owned by the academy. Ground classes will be conducted in air regulations, aviation meteorology, air navigation, aircraft and engines and radio telephony.

The academy will offer training to get student pilot licence, flight radio telephone operators’ licence, private pilot licence and commercial pilot licence. Forty hours of flying is must for private pilot licence (PPL), 200 hours for private and commercial pilot licence and 160 hours for commercial pilot licence for PPL holders.

“Being a government undertaking, the academy aims to impart quality training at affordable rates and to cater to the increasing needs of pilots. The fees to be paid by each trainee, in instalments, will be Rs. 15.2 lakh, the lowest in the country,” says the academy’s Executive Director, R. Rajeev.

At present, the institute has two brand new Cessna 172R four-seater aircraft purchased at a cost of Rs. 1 crore each. The advantage of the four-seater aircraft is that three students can accompany the flying instructor.

The Aero Club of India has promised a new Cessna 172R with a glass cockpit, Mr. Rajeev says.

T.J. Joseph has been appointed Chief Flying Instructor and S.K.J. Nair Chief Ground Instructor of the academy. Three ground instructors have been appointed to impart training.

The ground classes will be held for the time being in a private building at Eenchakkal, near the airport.

The new building of the academy, along with hangar and other facilities, will come up near the Arat gate of the airport on the Vallakadavu side.

The building, being set up on land provided by Airports Authority of India on the airport premises, is estimated to cost Rs. 3.49 crore. The State government has made an allocation of Rs. 1 crore in this year’s budget.

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