|(From top) An aircraft takes off from the Rangeilunda flying club in Berhampur, people gather around an aircraft at the flying club and Capt. M.S. Mander (centre) with two trainee pilots. Pictures by Gopal Krishna Reddy
Berhampur, Dec. 2: After Bhubaneswar, Oissa’s second flying club started functioning from the Rangeilunda airstrip in Ganjam district last week. The club accommodates 100 plus pilot trainees of the Government Aviation Training Institute (Gati), Bhubaneswar.
“As the Bhubaneswar airport runway suffers from traffic congestion most of the time, the civil aviation ministry was in search of a suitable substitute and considered Rangeilunda airstrip as the best,” Capt. M.S. Mander, flight instructor in-charge of Gati, said in an exclusive interview to The Telegraph.
“We have at present 100 plus trainee pilots at Gati, Bhubaneswar, and we impart aviation training for one-and-half to two years. We mainly provide training on two courses — Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and Private Pilot Licence (PPL). We are now doing six-day camp here and would again go back to Bhubaneswar,” Capt. Mander said.
According to this provision, if one has 200-hours of flying experience, he or she is eligible to pilot a commercial plane and it is 50 hours for a private plane.
Gati had five training planes including two Cessna-172 (four seater), two Cessna-152 (two seater) and one twin engine Pipper Seneca (six seater), Capt. Mander said.
Indian economy is booming and aviation sector has greater prospects. “As corporate airlines are purchasing lots of aircraft and 34 airfields are coming up in the entire country, the future of Gopalpur and the trainee pilots is very bright. There is good connectivity between small airfields and more people are travelling in plane for business purposes,” said Capt. Mander.
However, Capt. Mander stressed on the need to improve the Rangeilunda airstrip. “We have urged the district administration to extend the present runway of the Rangeilunda airstrip so that regional aircraft can come. If that could be done, Gopalpur could bet air connectivity with Calcutta, Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad and other important places. This would help Gopalpur to attract more tourists,” Capt. Mander said.
Capt. Mander had surveyed the Rangeilunda airstrip along with Wing Commander Pradeep Chakraborty and Gopalpur MLA Pradip Panigrahi on October 12. A senior pilot of the ministry of civil aviation also visited the Rangeilunda airstrip a few months ago and asked the works engineer to develop it as a visual flight rule (VFR) airstrip and to provide at least two rooms to conduct the pilot training institute.
Rangeilunda airstrip is situated on 40-acres and is under the control of the public works department. “Though the runway of the airstrip is used only 8-10 times in a year, we are maintaining it regularly. The length of the present runway is 750-meter and it is ready now for the flying training institute,” said P. K. Das, executive engineer, PWD.
Rangeilunda is located at a distance of around 5km from Berhampur and is adjacent to Berhampur University. The Britishers built the Rangeilunda airstrip during the Second World War.
According to sources, the defence establishments at nearby Golabandha, chief minister, VVIPs and corporate executives use the runway very often to reach Berhampur and other places in southern Orissa.
Berhampur University authority had provided four quarters in the Teachers’ Colony to the PWD on rent after the civil aviation ministry had sought four residential quarters and an office building for the Flying Training Institute.
“We agreed to provide the quarters on rent as per provision,” said Prof. Jayant Mahapatra, vice-chancellor, Berhampur University.
“The Aviation Training Centre, Bhubaneswar, also requested us alert students of the six boys’ hostels (including Rushikulya Hostel, Bansadhara Hostel, Nagabali Hostel and Jogendra Hostel) who usually use the airstrip as a thoroughfare. Though we have our separate approach road from the hostel to the PG departments, I have already communicated the message to the hostel inmates and all have agreed not to use the runway when the flying training institute begins to function,” the VC said. But the runway is yet to be free from trespassers. Onlookers gather there to catch a view of an aircraft landing or taking off.
“The obstruction on the runway must be tackled immediately,” said Capt. Mander.
R.D. Kabilan from Chennai, who is a trainee pilot, is happy with the course and Gati. “We have one chief flying instructor Capt. M.S. Mander and four other Instructors including Capt. Sandip Pradhan, Capt. Sandip Hati, Capt. Sukhnaib Singh and Capt. Ashok Kumar Sanday,” he said.
“Though I am far away from home, the hospitality of the people of Orissa have impressed me,” he said.
Kabilian along with five other trainee pilots are presently staying at the Inspection Bungalow at Gopalpur.