Soaring to Greater Heights
By Anil Mulchandani | Published: 16th March 2014 06:00 AM |
Most people manage to excel in just one field in their lifetime. But spine surgeon Dr Nagesh Bhandari is a trained pilot as well. Taking his passion forward in the 1990s, he launched a flight school in Ahmedabad. In 2004, he started a training programme for Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs). Recently, he has pioneered a B.Sc. programme for AMEs.
“My brothers and I have always had a passion for aircraft but during the 1980s when our family was establishing the engineering company Electrotherm, the aviation sector was strictly government controlled,’’ says Bhandari. This changed in the 1990s when aviation was liberalized here.
Nagesh’s brother, Dr Rakesh Bhandari, who has a pilot license from Canada often bemoaned the standard of training for aspiring pilots here. “During the 1990s, my brother and I decided to open a flight school,” says Nagesh. Thus Ahmedabad Aviation & Aeronautics (AAA) was founded in 1994. “It operated from hangars at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport,’’he explains.
The flying school has five single-engine aircraft and one flight simulator and a ground school. It also claims to be the first pilot training institute in India to import Elite I Gate class of Flight Navigation Procedure Trainer. “We revived the disused Mehsana Airport, north of Ahmedabad, on a public-private partnership basis between the government of Gujarat and a private company and Ahmedabad Aviation and Aeronautics (AAA) in 2007. This airport has been upgraded and is an important part of our flight school,’’ says Bhandari. “With the opening of the skies, career opportunities in aviation multiplied. Over 150 of AAA students are flying for various airlines and in General Aviation sector. We have excellent records of providing young commercial pilots for airlines,’’ he beams.
Once AAA established itself as a flight school, says general manager Vivek Kumar Nagar, they began to look at the gap in supply of aircraft maintenance engineers.
“Apart from pilots, we found that airlines require aircraft maintenance engineers (AME). In 2004, the Western India Institute of Aeronautics was established to train AMEs,” says Nagar. Students who have finished school are eligible to enroll for the undergraduate programme which has a Directorate General of Civil Aviation-approved syllabus.
“Though AMEs are qualified to work in aviation sector they are still 12th pass students with a certificate and not considered graduates,’’ says Nagar.
Nagar says they decided this should change. “A few years ago, Indus University was started with Dr Nagesh Bhandari as a patron. Here, we decided to introduce a B. Sc. degree programme for aircraft maintenance. For this, we upgraded these courses to graduate level by formalizing the course content and giving detailed syllabus for overall development of the students as useful professionals,’’ says Nagar.
The institute works in synergy with AAA to give students exposure to work on a live aircraft. With the B.Sc. programme, AME students are now eligible for competitive exams, pursuing higher studies at the post graduate level or applying for jobs where minimum criteria is a graduate degree.
The work on launching the undergraduate course commenced in 2011. “The challenge was to design a course which would be UGC compliant,’’ says Nagar.
“After a lot of hard work, a basic structure was designed and presented to Indus University for approval. After Indus University Board of Management approved it, the course was put through scrutiny by Board of Studies and Academic Council. After plenty of additions and modifications, the course was finally accepted by IU and included as UG programme in 2012’’. Each batch includes about 60 to 70 students.
Nagar says they are committed to helping their students build careers in the aviation industry.
“We now propose to start an Aircraft Maintenance Engineering course for Avionics, which covers radio navigation, electrical system and instrument systems. We are tracking trends in aviation and the needs of the aviation industry to develop more facilities for this sector,’’ he adds.