After two decades of standstill, the country's oldest flying institute, Behala Flying Club, is taxiing again, with five companies, including Jet Airways, showing an interest in taking over the controls.
Spread over 300 acres in west Behala, the institute, that was once a premier flight-training centre, has been lying all but defunct.
'Jet Airways and some other companies have offered to operate Behala Flying Club. The tendering process is on,' said chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb.
One portion of the premises will house a facility for small aircraft to take-off and land, added Deb.
The Airports Authority of India will execute that part of the project, while the private company being handed the controls could open institutes for flight engineers, ground engineers, air hostesses and aircraft maintenance and cabin crew, in addition to training pilots.
'We are certainly keen to have our own pilot training facilities, as our chairman (Naresh Goyal) recently indicated, but nothing has been finalised about Behala Flying Club. It is still under evaluation,' said Saroj Dutta, executive director, Jet Airways.
Sources said Jet was eager to check-in at the Behala Flying Club if the money matters worked out favourably.
'We will soon invite financial bids from the companies that have expressed interest. An expert committee will be constituted to assess the financial soundness, experience, expertise and other resources of the interested parties,' said transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury.
'The number of jobs in the aviation sector is rising rapidly. However, those aspiring to become pilots or flight engineers now have to go to Bangalore or Hyderabad for training. That will change once Behala Flying Club opens it doors,' added Chowdhury.
Jet Airways, Pailan Group, Motijug Industries, Indus Aviation and Multiple Education Trust are the companies that have evinced an interest in turning around the fortunes of the flying club. They have been asked to submit detailed plans by July 7.
With the scramble for pilots threatening to ground the soaring domestic aviation industry, Jet is keen to churn out in-house talent.
'There are scores of decrepit flying clubs lying unused across the country. We are trying to examine whether some of them can be turned into flying and pilot training schools,' said an official in Jet Airways.
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said: 'Now we can say that the Behala Flying Club will reopen and reopen in a big way.'