Friday, May 10, 2019

Alumni of 60-year-old flying club in Thiruvananthapuram plan to chart a new flight path for the institution

To touch the clouds was the height of ambition of many teenagers in the city. And a flying club in the city gave them wings to be a bird in the sky. Founded in July 14, 1959 by Colonel Goda Raja Varma, the Kerala Flying Club had the distinction of having trained generations of pilot and flight engineers from Kerala.

Today, for the first time in its 60-year existence, former students of the Club, now known as the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology (RAGAAT), are meeting to pilot the future of the club in the right direction.

It all began with an informal conversation among a group of residents who had learnt flying at the Club. Captain Sajith Kumar (United Airlines), Ajith Mohan (flight engineer, Emirates), Captain Arunkumar (Qatar Airways), Sajan Janardhanan, Ratheesh Babu (chief engineer, RAGAAT), Premjith and Ashok Kumar put their heads together and decided on a blueprint for a meeting. They got in touch with their friends and batch-mates, many of them working as pilots and flight engineers in different places in India and the world. They felt that it was high time they decided on a new course of action to help the Club regain its pride of place in the skies.

What caught their attention was the fact that many teenagers who dreamt of taking to the skies were now forced to go abroad or outside Kerala to learn flying and that too at exorbitant rates.

“We wanted to highlight the fact that here was an institution with a proud history of flying. Moreover, thanks to the government, RAGAAT had bought first-class flying machines for the students. However, RAGAAT had to take a back seat owing to lack of experienced instructors who were prepared for a long assignment,” says Captain R Kalias Nair, a pilot and instructor with a commercial airline.
The alumni of the flying club hope to work in cooperation with the government to bring the shine back to the club. “Many flying clubs in India are hampered by lack of equipment but this one has four single-engine Cessna 172 aircraft, of which two are glass cockpit airplanes and a state-of-the-art Piper Seneca twin engine aircraft for advanced, the latest in this field, for advanced training in flying” adds Kailas.

They feel that what is an impediment in the progress of the club is the “unrealistic salary structure, which is a reason why instructors are not willing to stay on for long”. During the meet, they plan to come up with some proposals such as giving the instructors a share of the revenue when the number of students increase so that instructors get a reasonable pay packet.
10/05/19 Saraswathy Nagarajan/The Hindu
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