Aviation in India
AOPA India was formally launched recently in Delhi at a ceremony attended by the Indian Minister of Transport, the Honourable Pratap Rudy. In his capacity as a representative of 59 States that now make up the International Council of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations, IAOPA, Frank Hofmann was honoured to be invited to attend and to give the inaugural address.
India, despite a population of slightly more than 1 Billion, has only about 350 flying GA aircraft – 6 balloons and 40 Ultralights included – of the 1100 aircraft on its Civil Aviation register. Moreover, India records only about 2000 registered GA pilots.
In essence, Frank’s comments raised the issue of why a nation which has harnessed nuclear power, developed communication satellite technology and supercomputers has an airplane population only 1/1000th that of Canada’s and has no airplane manufacturers.
In his opening address Frank Hofmann noted that, "With a population of more than one billion people and only 400 operational General Aviation aircraft the possibilities for India are enormous. These possibilities can be released by creating a regulatory structure that favours general aviation. This structure should be based on evidence and not on conjecture. India has everything required to have an active general aviation sector except the regulations permitting it." Mr. Hofmann pledged the support of IAOPA in achieving these goals.
The Minister, speaking after Frank, used Frank’s remarks as the opportunity to openly chastise his bureaucrats, challenging them to develop regulations which would foster flying in India, and thus reap the economic benefits of a healthy General Aviation industry.
While in India Frank also had the pleasure to be introduced to the students, staff and facilities of the Ahmedabad Aviation Academy, an aviation college whose organization is exemplary, even by North American standards. Its founder, Dr. Rakesh Bhandari of London, Ontario is a GA enthusiast whose fondest dream is to have India opened up to GA. Upon arriving at the school Frank and his wife were greeted by a parade of 25 uniformed, bright and clearly eager young student pilots. Just like their counterparts in North America, they were filled with hopes for bright futures in the skies. He was pleased to address the group, to answer questions, and to wish them good luck.
Although their directorship is in a fledgling state, AOPA India has significant industrial support and has managed to establish credible offices and a secretariat. One of their first orders of business was to take Frank to a 900 foot strip, far into the country, where one of the AOPA directors had carved out an UL strip, erected a hangar, put an Indian-made UL into it, and posted a 24-7 guard to watch it all. Frank was privileged to be given a flight – one of few people in India to have flown an UL over India. Operations of this aircraft are restricted to a 3 mile radius and under 700 feet. However minimal the liberty, this in fact represents a significant victory for GA in a country operating on rules, as the Transport Minister pointed out, essentially unchanged since 1937. Illustrating the true spirit of what people really want, though, was the group of about 25 people, mostly youngsters, that materialized suddenly at the end of his flight. They had run from hither and yon at the first sights and sounds of the aircraft. Now they sat mesmerized, in awe of this machine which moments earlier flew over them.
There is scope for tremendous growth in aviation in India. There is the same sense of awe at the notion of flight that gripped our nation in the past century. And it appears there is now the will – both political and social (the will of the people) – to develop the dream. As he looked at the eager group that had gathered to see the bright yellow Ultralight as it flew above them, Frank thought that he was looking at the future direction of aviation in India at that moment.
AOPA India is now one of the 59 affiliates in the IAOPA and it has already begun to work on behalf of its members to promote General Aviation. This task is particularly formidable in a number of countries, India included.
The total Inaugural Address can be viewed on www.hoftec.com under ‘ICAO’.
Frank Hofmann is a COPA Director for Quebec, COPA Secretary and IAOPA Representative to ICAO