Enthusiasts check out the two-seater glider at Barwaddah airstrip near Dhanbad town on Sunday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Fancy a bird’s-eye view of Dhanbad? Here is your soaring chance.
The state civil aviation department on Sunday flagged off a 15-day glider camp at Barwaddah airstrip, 10km from town, and enthusiasts can book a five-minute trip some 1,000ft into the azure skies for Rs 300.
A 17-member civil aviation team, including five pilots led by Captain Sanjay Pandey, is manning the camp, which already saw a whopping 240 bookings on Day One.
The L-23 Super Blaník — a two-seater sailplane of Czech make and reaching a maximum speed of 230kmph — has been brought to Dhanbad from Ranchi. It can make a maximum of 50 sorties a day and the flights of fancy have been divided into two sessions — one from 7am to noon and another from 3pm till sunset.
“We did a trial run yesterday (Saturday) and flew two sorties on the first day of the camp. The dual-control glider will fly 1,000ft in one sortie (though its maximum altitude is 1,300ft) and cover the entire city before returning to the airstrip,” Captain Pandey said, adding that though there was no maximum age limit for adults, only children above 10 years would be allowed to fly.
Also, the enthusiasts must be medically fit and should not weigh more than 90kg. An indemnity bond will have to be signed by all before take-off.
On why the civil aviation department was hosting the camp in Barwaddah, the veteran pilot said the idea was to generate interest among residents because the state had plans on the anvil to launch a flying cradle in the coal town and make good use of the airstrip.
“Moreover, we organised similar camps in Daltonganj four years ago and Giridih two years ago. Dhanbad was on the radar. A training centre is on the cards if people evince genuine interest during the camp,” Pandey said.
Currently, Jharkhand has only one state-owned flying cradle in Ranchi.
“We have a team of five pilots, besides technical staff and engineers, who are manning the sorties for increased safety of gliding enthusiasts. Though the maximum number of possible trips in 50, the same will also depend on wind pattern. We restricted the number of sorties to two during the first session of the inaugural because of adverse weather,” the captain said.
Anand Pathak, who owns a motel in Barwaddah and has booked a sky trip, echoed the pilot. “The camp is unique and intriguing for people like me. I am eagerly waiting for my turn to fly.”