Gliding Centre Pune hanging on ropes old and broken

DGCA’s apathy hinders GCP’s glide to glory; record-breaking feat that got the centre into limca book of records not enough.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | Published: May 16, 2013 2:22:45 am

Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL) has got hold of the 30 acres of land originally allotted to Pune’s Gliding Centre by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru 62 years ago. But the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) does not seem to care. So much so,they have turned a deaf ear to the centre’s demand for a yearly budget to buy ropes for gliders,the basic equipment for this sport.

The L-23 Super Blanik gliders,which were bought in 1994,are still in operation,even as the world of aero sports progressed in leaps and bounds in the past two decades,leaving Indian sportsmen with much to desire.

For the Gliding Centre Pune (GCP) at Hadapsar,it is struggles all the way. However,there is still reason for its members to smile.

The record-breaking feat that they attempted on May 16,2012,has been formally recognized by the Limca Book of Records and documented under World Record 2013. The certificate was received by the GCP just short of the first anniversary.

According to GCP’s instructor-in-charge Captain Shailesh Charbhe,30 personnel from the centre participated in the record-breaking event. While 10 were pilots,20 provided logistical support of pulling the rope,winding the winch,coordinating with the IAF Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and other crucial activities involved in the aero sport.

The runway was divided into two parts – the first portion for landing one of the gliders and the second portion for the second glider to take off. “There was not a single minute when the sky was without a glider,” Charbhe says,as he explains how the group achieved 153 landings and takeoffs within just 12 hours 52 minutes that is between 6.30 am to 7.22 pm on May 16 last year.

Sixty-one-year-old L D Kokate,who provided logistical support during the world record attempt,said, “It has been an experience of a lifetime. We achieved the feat with two gliders and it was a tough coordination. While one glider took off,a second one would get ready to do the same. Not even a single minute was wasted in preparation.” Kokate joined GCP in December 2010.

Though the record comes as an encouragement for those who worked hard for it,the feat can in no way provide respite against the day-to-day struggles and neglect faced by the centre.

GCP,which was the vision of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru,is today hanging on ropes that are old and broken. It must be noted that ropes are the basic equipment for this sporting activity.The two L-23 Super Blanic gliders have exhausted most of their life and GCP is yet to get a reply from from DGCA to their request for money to buy five,new generation gliders for over six years now. So much so,no budgetary allotments were made in the 12th Five-Year-Plan even after repeated requests.

“We feel neglected. It is like gliding is DGCA’s last priority. To top it all,PHHL has taken the land here to fly helicopters. We have repeatedly pointed out that gliding can not take place where engine-powered machines fly. But the higher authorities just do not care. The World Record is a breather,but not air. We need air to breathe,not just breathers,” said a member of GCP.

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