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Wannabe pilots, let dreams soar with the Skyhawk
- India’s first civilian to fly military aircraft gifts advanced Cessna 172 variant to Sonari training cradle

Jamshedpur Flying School — the only operational one Jharkhand can boast — has just won a pair of popular wings.

Avid aviator and former Tata Steel senior executive Niroop Mahanty has allowed Alchemist Aviation Private Limited, which runs the cradle from Sonari Aerodrome, to borrow his new Cessna 172 Skyhawk, touted as the most successful civil aircraft in history.

Known for highly evolved avionics, the single-engine aircraft is preferred among training schools across the world. Alchemist will use the US-made Skyhawk for both cross-country advanced training and charter flights. According to agreement, the Skyhawk will also be hangared and maintained by the aviation firm.

So far, the flying school had three single-engine, double-seater Cessna 152 and a multi-engine Piper Seneca PA 34.

“The Skyhawk is like a Godsend for us. We are grateful to Mr Mahanty. With our three Cessna 152s, we could train only one student at a time. The Cessna 172 will allow us to train three students at a time. The multi-engine Piper Seneca is a six-seater, but beginners need to train in single-engine first,” said Captain S.K. Upadhyay, the unit head of Alchemist Aviation.

He added that the Skyhawk’s advanced avionics and navigation would also be a big plus for aspiring pilots. The aircraft offers stable aviation, GPS, dual navigation and communication systems and latest emergency locator transmitters or ELT.

Niroop Mahanty, who flew the Jet Provost at Sandtoft Airfield in North Lincolnshire, England, to become the first Indian civilian to man a military aircraft in 2006, said it had been a long-cherished dream to own an air machine.

“I had applied to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in October 2011. The bureaucratic process was long-drawn and the clearance came only this month. Finally, the aircraft from Aligarh landed in Jamshedpur last (Wednesday) evening,” the 63-year-old pilot said.

The flying school in Jamshedpur, operating since 2006, has produced over 100 commercial pilots. The 18-month course costs Rs 22 lakh. “I want my new plane to benefit wannabe pilots of eastern India. There is not a single credible flight cradle functional in this part of the country,” Mahanty said.

The Cessna 172 Skyhawk, which is said to have sold more than 43,000 models since its birth 1955-56, does cost a fortune. Though Mahanty refused to spell out the exact price, his dream is expected to have caused a wallet setback of over Rs 1.5 crore.

A member of Bhubaneswar Flying Club, Mahanty, who has a commercial pilot licence (CPL) and a private pilot licence (PPL) with multi-engine instrument rating (enabling him to fly in rough weather), has been flying since 1976 along with wife Rupa. They became the first Asian pilot couple to participate in the Great Outback Air Navigation Adventure (Goana) held in Australia in 1997.