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MAA: Turbulence at Madras Flying Club

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 4:31 pm    Post subject: MAA: Turbulence at Madras Flying Club Reply with quote

Turbulence at Madras Flying Club

Mamta Todi
07 Sep 2009

Amidst the hype and hoopla over Madras Week celebrations in August, the Madras Flying Club (MFC) entering its 80th year was not marked with due emphasis.

The club’s building is the oldest structure inside the airport premises at Meenambakkam and stands testimony to the glorious past of aviation history in Chennai.

Although the club building remains in Chennai, the flight training itself has been shifted to an airstrip near Vellore.

Besides other private flying clubs have come about slowly removing MFC out of public memory.

But at one point of time, MFC had several firsts to its credit.

It was a Dehavilland Puss Moth plane belonging to MFC that pioneered pilot training in South India and made the maiden landing in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, on November 27, 1935 when the country constructed an aerodrome at Ratnamala near Colombo.

It also trained pilots for the air force, Capt V Sundaram who was the first to get a commercial pilot licence (CPL) from the club, was also the first person to fly around the country.

The idea for setting up the club was mooted by G Vlasto, a pilot. The then Aero Club of India secretary A Cooper extended his support and ensured funding from the Director of Civil Aviation. The club started functioning informally under Vlasto on March 4, 1930 and the the first instructional flight took off on July 21 in 1930.

Following which it received support from six businessmen of Madras - W M Browning, K R Simpson, E F Lowman, J S Goodwin, S A A Annamalai Chettiar and A S Galimore - and the then military secretary of Government House Capt Bootle Wilbraham who formed an association and called it The Madras Flying Club Ltd. The club was inaugurated on August 20, 1930 by Sir George Frederick Stanley, the Governor of Madras.

After World War II and Indian independence many aviation companies were coming up and there was a demand for pilots.

In the absence of a central training centre, flying clubs catered to the demand for training pilots and MFL awarded 90 CPLs between 1948 and 1956.

During the Chinese aggression in 1962, five flying clubs were appointed for training air force pilots and MFC was one of them. During the war with Pakistan in 1971, two MFC aircraft were used for aerial reconnaissance off Madras and Vishakapatnam coasts.

In 2004 the club stopped its training programme and it was resumed in 2006 from a new airstrip near Vellore.

Corruption charges ‘ground’ the club

For the past two years, the Madras Flying Club (MFC) has run into rough weather with a student taking the club to court, charges of corruption and mud slinging among the top management.

A student, Kasinandhini Devi had taken the club to court alleging that the club was admitting more students than allowed by the civil aviation department and that more than 200 students in the club were not getting enough flying hours due to excessive admissions.

Club off i c i a l s though say that there is only minimum intake every six months. “What happens most often is students who enroll drop out half way through their course without informing the club.

A large number of students are also regularly absent. In such scenario, we cannot keep the club’s infrastructure ideal and that is when we took more students. However, owing to the controversies now we have stopped admissions for sometime,” explains the club’s secretary Capt Sebastian.

Club insiders say that some members of the management faked letters from parents complaining that their wards were not being given flying lessons. “These things have been happening for the last two years now because of certain disagreements between members of the managing board. Their personal rivalries are affecting the name of the historic club which no one seems to care about,” says a member.

To sully things further, the club’s former chairman Captain Jacob Selvaraj complained to the union ministry of social justice and empowerment alleging that education scholarships worth Rs 15 lakh had been misused. The charges, however, were proved wrong earlier this year. Meanwhile the historic club waits for the bickering among its top management to settle.

Want to fly high?

For those want to train as a pilot in and around Chennai but want to avoid the historic but troubled Madras Flying Club (MFC), there are other options in the form of private flying schools but these too operate only partially from Chennai or Puducherry.

Apart from MFC, Chennai has 3 private flying schools imparting flight training. The oldest among these is Orient Flight School (OFS), which was established at Puducherry in 1994 and over a period of fourteen years it has trained hundreds of pilots.

OFC had been conducting their flight training out of an air strip near Jaipur for the last few months as the Puducherry runway is under repair. Even the MFC has been conducting lessons at Vellore.

A growing lack of flying infrastructure in Chennai is forcing schools to give the actual flight training abroad after ground and theory classes in Chennai.

The Falcon Flight School in Alandur and the Delta Flight school from Texas based in Anna Nagar, give students commercial pilot licenses approved by the federal aviation administration of USA by training their students in USA after theory classes in Chennai.
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