Sunday, September 08, 2019

Taking to the skies

When Benjamin Augustus Dodd wanted to learn flying, he first had to persuade his parents to let him take an uncharted path, that too an expensive hobby. This was three years ago, when he just finished his schooling.

“Though flying was a passion in my family for three generations, it was a foreign idea,” says Rodney, his elder brother, who was able to pursue his passion only after acquiring a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

Earlier this year, the brothers took turns to fly their parents on Pipistrel, the latest generation Light Sport Trainer Aircraft (LSA) over the airfields and the rolling countryside around Christchurch in New Zealand. It was a beautiful moment for the entire family. “We made a wonderful memory together though we had to slog to achieve our dream of conquering the skies,” says Rodney.
A State tennis player-turned consultant and mentor, 28-year-old Rodney has rolled his love for sports, travel and flying into one to help others with opportunities to experience what they might be just dreaming about. In 2013, he established Tie-Upp, a global sports/education networking organisation to identify and nurture talent through its Train-Gain-Shine (TGS) initiative. Under this Tie-Upp Aviation was launched as a company in 2017 to make the process of flying simple, accessible and affordable to people awed by aviation.

They were in Madurai last month offering an aviation camp to interested students. They visited schools to explain how children can now assess their aptitude before joining a professional flying school.
A family holiday in New Zealand in 2011 sparked the idea in the brothers. They wanted to fly high. “I loved the idea of getting away on a fast mode of transportation,” says 21-year-old Benjamin who earned his flying instructor and pilot’s license two years ago.

Impressed by the Rangiora airfield, five kilometres north of Christchurch with 90 private hangars and 200 aircrafts of different types and sizes parked at any given time, the duo rented out a hangar and made it their home. Initially, they flew the Italian Tecnam to give a hands-on experience in flying to locals and tourists.

“In New Zealand, flying is a hobby as common taking dance classes,” says Benjamin, “And the Rangiora air field is always buzzing with amateurs and professionals.” Inspired by the enthusiasm of people who come for weekend joy rides, honeymoon rides, and to learn flying, the brothers started their own aviation packages as part of promoting New Zealand tourism. And in doing so, they created a record too by inducting the first LSA registered Pipistrel Alpha trainer in New Zealand’s aviation history on August 15 last year.

The Slovenia built single engine two-seater aircraft has stickers from Madurai on it and the boys are elated for getting the TGS registration number matching with the name of their initiative. For the past eight months, the brothers have been using their aircraft for recreational and professional flying. “It has been an amazing journey,” says Rodney. During the period, Benjamin has taken various people, including a 13-year-old boy and a 92-year-old trained pilot into the skies. “If you can reach, the controls you are allowed to fly,” he says and shares the excitement of the teenager whose parents thought he would be scared to fly. “But he discovered the joy in learning to fly and now perhaps dreams of becoming a pilot,” he adds.
07/09/19 Soma Basu/The Hindu
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