| Students at the GATI training complex in Bhubaneswar airport. Telegraph picture |
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 5: The fate of 120 pilot trainees at Government Aviation Training Institute (GATI) hangs in balance with no practical training being imparted there since January last year.
Students are only being given lessons in theory and mechanics of aircraft. However, officials of the state government’s aviation wing are hopeful that the students would be able to fly the trainer aircraft again within a month.
“The problem started when New Delhi-based Global Avianautics Ltd (GAL) took over the government training institute in 2009. Since there was a condition that Odisha government would get its share of profit from the company under public-private-partnership agreement, it prompted the Airports Authority of India to demand its share of profit from the state government,” said a senior government official.
The official revealed that the AAI was planning to take the entire profit from the aviation training institute, but the state government insisted on having a share since the land for the airport was given to the AAI at a nominal premium. This, apparently, caused a major rift.
The students are caught in the middle of this battle between the AAI and the state government. While the two-year course at GATI offers commercial pilot licence, it is mandatory that a student logs a minimum of 200 hours of flying experience. But since January, 2012, not a single student has been given flying training.
Government officials said 30 students from the current batch have sought transfer to other institutes outside the state.
A senior official of the state aviation wing said even after paying 50 per cent share of the profits to AAI like it demanded, its officials never allowed the trainer craft to fly. At present, four aircraft at GATI — two owned by the state government and two by GAL — are lying idle.
While the government owns two Cessna-15, Gal has two Cessna-172. GATI was begun as one of the first flying training centres of the country by Biju Patnaik, who was a pilot himself, way back in 1949. At that time, the institute was known as Bhubaneswar Flying Club.
Last year on October 31, chief secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik wrote to the AAI chairman on the issue of the aircraft. On November 21 last year, Union civil aviation secretary K.N. Srivastava, during his visit to the state, had held a discussion with the chief secretary and assured that AAI would grant seven years approval to GATI.
“Now we have no issues pending with the AAI because the money generated from the GATI venture will be shared equally. AAI officials have given a verbal clearance to fly the trainer craft and the permission in writing will come soon. However, as the four aircraft were lying without use for such a long time, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had asked for an airworthiness check. In the meanwhile, the pilot for the trainer aircraft has left and the DGCA has also been asked to arrange for a pilot immediately,” the state’s director of civil aviation Muralidhar Palai told The Telegraph.
Stating that the state government had contacted the Jharkhand government pilot for help to which the latter has agreed, Palai said the trainer craft will fly within a month.