Thursday, December 02, 2021

Questions raised over DGCA clearance to NFC’s grounded aircraft

Nagpur: Days after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted a green signal to Nagpur Flying Club (NFC) to restart admissions of students and training programmes, a lawyer has questioned how one of its four aircraft, a Cessna-172R (VT-ACQ), was included on Flying Training Organization (FTO) list of ‘approved equipment’ in the absence of airworthiness certificate.Shrinivas Deshpande, who has been fighting for the revival of the British-era club for over two decades, filed a civil application in the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court on Monday. He has prayed for explanation from the apex body in this regard. He contends that including the grounded aircraft in NFC’s FTO would put the lives of students at risk, as it has never flown since 2017.

Deputy divisional commissioner Milind Salve refused to comment on Deshpande’s allegations.

On Friday, the judges at Nagpur bench of Bombay high court had visited the NFC premises and sat inside this aircraft for about 10 minutes. Only its engines were started as a demonstration when they were inside, but the aircraft did not fly.

Deshpande, himself an NFC alumnus, alleged that the officials from divisional commissioner’s office did not give the judiciary all the information in this regard. His application was filed in a PIL by late Flt Lt Shridhar Ghatate, which was later pursued by his wife Sumedha, after the British-era club stopped operating on account of the Maharashtra government’s apathy in 2016.

The DGCA cleared the decks for restarting NFC after a gap of over 4.5 years by granting its certificate of approval on November 16 for flying all four of its aircraft – three Cessna 152s and one 172R.

“If you see the DGCA’s certificate, the approval for 172R aircraft is handwritten. It is very surprising that a top office like DGCA is giving handwritten approval, which was not even counter-signed by it. The judges sat in the aircraft and may have been impressed, but that plane is not in a position to take to the skies till it is made airworthy,” the lawyer said.

02/12/21 Vaibhav Ganjapure/Times of India

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