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How Belagavi lost its first aviation academy 27 years ago

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by Rajeev Doddanavar

I read that Belagavi is set to get not one but two flying schools very soon and felt very happy about it. It enables Belagavi students to pursue a new career whose training was so far not available for them locally. That reminds me of the nineties when Belagavi did have its own Flying School.

Way back in 1995, a common friend introduced me and my brother Ajit and to Mr. Carvalho and Mr Vernim, who were both NRIs. They intended to start an aviation academy at Belgaum taking advantage of the location, climatic conditions, and the airport which had no flights operating from Belagavi at that time.

Hence Carver Aviation was formed taking the first three letters from each of the promoter’s names.

During one of the meetings with us, they expressed their desire to have exclusive accommodation for their trainee pilots to accommodate 50 trainee pilots, trainers, and maintenance staff. They made several attempts in Belgaum city to find suitable accommodation for this purpose but their attempts were futile.

Image source Carver Aviation website

To motivate them, we offered to construct the building as per their specification at our Doddanavar trade center by altering the existing plan. The building was completed and handed over to them subsequently. On many occasions, we helped them out by giving personal guarantees for sourcing their engine parts and other equipment. They had big plans to train pilots, aircraft maintenance staff and other personnel required in the aviation industry.

The training involved 250 hours of flying for a private pilot license and 500 hours of flying for a commercial pilot license and the fees charged were Rs. 5 lakhs and Rs. 10 lakhs respectively.

They had obtained basic permissions from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). They began with a skeletal infrastructure at Sambra airport by sourcing 3 Cessna Training Aircraft. They were also giving substantial revenue in the form of landing and take-off charges to the AAI while carrying out training programs. As they maintained the training schedules, they faced lot of hardships for the following reasons-

i. They were not permitted to carry out night landing training in spite of the night landing facility available at Sambra.

ii. No fuel storage facility was provided. They were sourcing aviation fuel in barrels from Goa which proved very costly and hazardous.

iii. Aircraft required periodic maintenance for which hangar facility was required. They requested the lease of a small portion of land at the airport to AAI which was turned down. We even managed to seek an appointment from the then Union Aviation Minister who incidentally was from Karnataka through our local acquaintance. There was no positive response from him and no action was taken in this matter.

They were even forced to shift part of the training to other airports for night landing training which is mandatory for obtaining Pilot licenses. This proved to be very uneconomical.

Repeated attempts to get these clearances failed, forcing them to opt for other airports to carry out these training programs. Out of frustration, the promoters decided to permanently shift this academy to another place (Baramati) where it is running successfully even today and where they trained over 1000 pilots over the past two decades.

The reason why I reminisce about this is that Belagavi has talent and our young boys and girls will surely make good use of the new flying schools. My only concern is that it shouldn’t go the old way once again. With the Belagavi airport functioning at full capacity with new flights beings added continuously, the future for flying from Belagavi looks very bright and so it is for those who will be associated with this sector.


About the Author:
Rajeev Doddanavar is Secretary Bharatesh Education Trust

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