Two years ago, when a 228-Dornier aircraft of the Indian Air Force landed as the first trial flight at the Kannur International Airport, it was Raghunath Nambiar, a native of Kannur, who was in the cockpit that day. On Sunday, when the airport will open for commercial operations, it will be Nambiar’s son Ashwin who will don the role of the First Officer of the first domestic flight landing in Kannur.
On Sunday, Ashwin will be piloting a GoAir flight along with Captain Brijesh Chandra Lal from New Delhi to Kannur, which will be a non-revenue flight. Hours later, he will take charge of a GoAir flight from Kannur to Bengaluru, which will be the first domestic flight taking off from the newly-inaugurated airport.
On phone from New Delhi, Ashwin said it was a proud occasion for him to be one of the first pilots to land at an airport in his hometown.
“It is a proud occasion for me and everyone else in my family. I’m a third generation pilot. My late grandfather was a pilot in the Air Force. My father, currently the Eastern Air Commander of the Indian Air Force posted in Shillong, has also been a pilot. He flew the Dornier 228 aircraft at Kannur. If my grandfather was alive, he would have been extremely proud. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
However, Ashwin following in his father’s footsteps to land an aircraft at Kannur wasn’t really coincidental. Ashwin said when he heard that GoAir was going to be one of the inaugural airlines at Kannur, he personally put in a request to his senior if he could be rostered on a flight on the inaugural day. “I was pretty sure that I was the only First Officer from Kannur who worked in GoAir. I told her that it would be a proud moment for my family if I could be put on the roster that day. Thankfully, she obliged,” he said.
Ashwin, who has been with GoAir for the past one-and-a-half years and has a total of 1,100 hours of flying time, has mostly operated from New Delhi and Kolkata airports. The only airport that he has flown to in Kerala was to Kochi. Ashwin’s family, consisting of his grandmother, uncle and cousins, stay in Kadachira, 23 kms from the airport in Mattanur.
“I need to get there and land there to understand how the airport really is (laughs). But from what I can say by looking at photos is that it’s quite an impressive airport. Tomorrow, I can give you a detailed review,” he said.
The international airport in Kannur will be jointly inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday morning. The first international flight to take off from the airport will be an Air India Express flight to Abu Dhabi. Built on 2,000 acres of land near the town of Mattanur, the airport will be the fourth international airport in Kerala after Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. It can serve one million passengers annually and the number is likely to rise five-fold by 2025. The airport will be of huge benefit for the large emigrant Malayali population, native to the Kannur and Kasaragod districts, and working in the Gulf countries.