Flying club’s clipped wings leave students high and dry

Students unable to complete required flying hours due to club’s lack of chief flying instructor

February 04, 2013 02:10 am | Updated 02:10 am IST - CHENNAI:

Young flying aspirants have been left in the lurch, unable to complete their stipulated period of flying training to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence.

The situation has arisen as the Madras Flying Club has not had a flying instructor for the past year. Airport sources said Captain N.K. Singh was the club’s last chief flying instructor. In January 2012, he turned 65 and as per civil aviation requirements, could not continue as instructor. Since then the club has not filled his post, and its students have been unable to complete the stipulated 200 hours of flying.

Another hiccup is the expiry of the club’s flying training approval. As per the guidelines of the directorate general of civil Aviation (DGCA), the validity of flying training approval of the club expired in March 2012, and was not renewed due to the non-appointment of a qualified instructor.

Another source said that ground classes had also been suspended for nearly six months after the chief ground instructor went on leave. They said he returned only a few weeks ago

The club however, continued to enrol a fresh batch of students. A senior official from the airport said nearly 30 students have been enrolled by the club in the last year. Each student has paid nearly Rs. 2 lakh for the training, which includes flying training, the official said.

The club has two Cessna 152 aircraft and a Cessna 172 aircraft, allotted to it by the Aero Club of India. All the aircraft are air-worthy, but they have not been operated for more than a year and are standing idle at the club’s hangar in the old airport in Meenambakkam.

Sources said that students have to spend nearly Rs. 20 lakh to undergo training in the Cessna 172 aircraft and Rs. 15 lakh for the Cessna 152.

Another problem with the club is that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has not renewed the club’s agreement. An AAI officer said they refused to renew the agreement issued to the club as they found it was using the facility to repair private aircraft. The officer said this was a gross violation by the club. The AAI had allocated a space to the club only on the condition that they would not undertake any commercial activity.

The AAI has already issued a notice to the club to vacate its premises at the old airport, where it has its administrative office and hangar.

When contacted, K. Sebastian Joseph, honorary secretary of the Club said they had already identified a suitable person to impart flying training. However, he could not begin classes as the DGCA had not given its clearance for the appointment of a new chief flying instructor.

“We have sent the proposal for the appointment of the new flying instructor to the DGCA for its approval. We expect to get its clearance in a few days,” he said.

On the plight of the 50 students who have completed the course but not the stipulated flying hours, he said that they would complete them shortly.

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