The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Behala to behemoth’s cockpit
- 16 years’ experience before flying largest commercial plane

Steering a 500-tonne plane at speeds approaching that of sound is all in a day’s work for Indranil Ray Chaudhury, but ask him to sit behind the wheels in Calcutta and he turns white.

“I spent my childhood in the city and know the road and traffic conditions but I would never muster the courage to drive a car here,” says the only pilot from India to fly the A380, the largest commercial aircraft in the world.

The 43-year-old spent his first nine years in Behala before his father Sachchidananda, a shipbuilding engineer at the Garden Reach dock, relocated to Singapore. “I used to study in a boarding school in Ekbalpore and often spent vacations at my maternal uncle’s house in Bhadreswar,” says Indranil.

The boy who “used to watch planes flying and dream of sitting in the cockpit” completed his education in the island state and joined Singapore Airlines as a trainee in 1991.

The chance to fly the A380 came 16 years later. “For six months, I underwent ground training in Singapore and simulator and flying training in Toulouse, France, the headquarters of Airbus. It was a huge honour. I was overwhelmed when my airline offered me the assignment,” says Indranil, who is in the city to attend a wedding but will also make a presentation at Birla Industrial and Technological Museum on November 27 and 28.

His first flight on the jumbo was from Singapore to Sydney, a day after the inaugural flight on the same route on October 25, 2007. Since then, the vice-president of the Bengali Association in Singapore has been flying only the A380. “The experience is different from that of flying any other aircraft. The cockpit is paperless; there is no printed copy of even the flight manual. I was handed only a DVD before flying the plane for the first time,” he says.

When not flying, Indranil devotes time to a trust he formed with his wife Shreya. It runs eight clinics in West Midnapore and is building 83 toilets in a tribal village near Chandrakona.

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