Aerosport hub plan yet to take off

On April 13,last year,the Gliding Centre,Pune,sent a proposal to the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation asking for equipment that could make the gliding centre a multi-aero sport hub.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | Published: March 28, 2012 2:22:42 am

On April 13,last year,the Gliding Centre,Pune (GCP),sent a proposal to the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asking for equipment that could make the gliding centre a multi-aero sport hub. Interestingly,the proposal was drafted as per instructions of Director-General of Civil Aviation,E K Bharat Bhushan,who had visited the GCP on March 16 the same year. He had said the centre could be converted into a hub for aero sports activity and aero tourism.

It has been a year since the proposal was sent but the equipment is nowhere in sight. Also,the DGCA has established no further correspondence with GCP.

With construction of a Helicopter Training Institute and Heliport by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL) under way at GCP,gliding enthusiasts have expressed concern that powered flying could affect gliding activities at the centre.

In the proposal,a copy of which is with The Indian Express,the GCP,in phase one,had demanded two training gliders,each costing Rs 30 lakh,one medium performance,single-seat glider (Rs 25 lakh),two motor gliders each costing Rs 85 lakh and a high power winch (Rs 60 lakh),besides spares and accessories worth Rs 5 lakh. “The total plan involves an investment of Rs 8-10 crore. We have been asking for the equipment since 2006,but the demands were drafted as a proposal for the first time last year. We have been sending reminders to the DGCA,” said GCP officials.

The yearly operational costs of the GCP are about Rs 1 crore with 70 per cent component as salaries. GCP has four L-23 Super Blanic gliders procured in 1994,three of which are now operational and as per the letter,nearing the “end of their service life.” A pulling rope costs Rs 31,000. These ropes wear out and one new rope is required every month but the GCP has not been given any allocation for that by DGCA for 2011-12 fiscal despite numerous requests by GCP. This when the DGCA has had a mammoth budget of Rs 112.64 crore for 2011-12. “The pilots had to pool in money to buy six ropes which we have been using for the past one year,” said a source.

When contacted,Bhushan said,“We have to source the money from the budget and there was no provision in this budget. Helicopter activities have increased and the chairman and managing director of PHHL is scheduled to visit the place within a week and give feedback. The intention is that if PHHL comes here,they will be able to to start the hiring operations. The money can also be sourced from PHHL for the gliding activity.”

Bhushan added,“There is hardly any gliding activity happening at the place.” The statement is in complete contrast to the proposal draft which says,“The four gliders together have done 31,192 take-offs and landings. Since 1994,60 ab-initio trainee glider pilots were sent solo and as many glider pilots licenses were issued making an institutional record. 6,000 NCC air wing cadets have had their air experience and aspire to take up aviation or air force as career. Approximately 4,000 school students have had the experience of one flight during school educational field visit to GCP. Over 16,000 Indian citizens have had the pleasure of experiencing the joy of flying.”

The proposal has also put on record how the GCP has been acting as a profit-making entity promoting gliding as a great hobby. “The combined cost of four gliders in 1994 was Rs 36,00,000. They collectively generated Rs 40,04,621 from 1994 to 2011,thus generating a profit of Rs 4,04,621.”

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