Flight school grounded for decades

Kolkata: Welcome to the West Bengal Flying Training, a huge junkyard at the entrance to an overgrown jungle that is called the Behala airport. The institute has no flight instructor or engineer, no airworthy planes, no students. It hasn’t had any for nearly two decades. There is only an assistant flight instructor who assiduously keeps her papers in order. The remaining 21 employees range from office staff to aircraft engineers who are as rusty from lack of work as the door hinges of the decaying aircraft.
“Neglect led to the collapse of the institute. Since 1993, there has been no regular faculty or students. We walk in around 11am, sit around and gossip, have lunch, gossip some more, play cards, have tea and walk off around 4pm,” one of the employees said.
There were 27 employees when the institute went into a tailspin. Five have retired. The rest are leading a retired life while counting down the days to retirement. Even the assistant flight instructor, who goes to other flight training institutes to get her flight license certification validated, lives a surreal existence. She undergoes the necessary refresher course but returns to the inert world.
ince 1989, she has done only 150 hours of flying in Behala. And they were all clocked in four years. She has seven more years of idling at the hangar before retirement date.
At the state transport department, where buses and trams are also in various stages of decadence, the flight institute exists only in dusty files. For, everyone knows it is a lost case. “The government cannot run the institute because it is not viable. Other flight training institutes pay Rs 2.5-3 lakh to the chief flight instructor. That kind of pay package is not possible in the government as the chief secretary’s salary is much less than that. Who will agree to be a flight instructor for Rs 40,000?” he asks.
The Behala Flying Club is the oldest flying institute in the country. Set up in 1947, it was taken over by the state government in 1963.
At the other hangar, decadence is setting in with three Cessna planes and a Chetak helicopter lying idle since August 14, 2008. The Camellia Institute of Aviation is now locked in a legal tussle with AAI. “Though Behala airport does not have basic facilities, AAI is charging as much as it does at Kolkata airport,” alleged a staff stationed at the institute.
30/11/11 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India



~ by anand213 on December 1, 2011.

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