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Closure of 110-year-old Delhi Flying Club leaves 85 students in the lurch

The club, which operated out of the Safdarjung airport, shut down on June 25 after the management gave an undertaking before the Delhi high court that they would vacate the premises, having failed to pay licensing fee to the Airports Authority of India.

delhi Updated: Jul 31, 2018 13:47 IST
Richa Banka
Richa Banka
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi Flying Club,Safdarjang airport,Delhi
The Delhi Flying Club had been providing training to students before its closure in June this year, even though flying operations at the institute ceased in 2002 over security concerns. (Sunil Saxena/ HT File Photo )

A locked grill gate and a gloomy disquiet is what remains of once-bustling campus of the Delhi Flying Club — an institution established in 1928 for aviation training.

The club, which operated out of the Safdarjung airport, shut down on June 25 after the management gave an undertaking before the Delhi high court that they would vacate the premises, having failed to pay licensing fee to the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Even though flying operations at the institute ceased in 2002 over security concerns, it had been providing ground and other technical training to students. The DFC conducted various courses, including pilot training, aircraft maintenance engineering courses (AME), cockpit resource management course, etc.

The closure of the club has left eighty-five students stuck with a course which they cannot complete. A few students had moved the high court, which directed the management of the DFC to ensure that the students complete their course. Sherin Malik, 20, who hails from Haldwani in Uttarakhand and stays at a rented accommodation in Delhi, told HT that she paid more than Rs 2 lakh for four semesters.

“The court had directed the DFC management to complete the course but there is no place to conduct classes. We do not know who should we blame?,” Malik said.

Vishal Sharma, another student, from Faridabad was worried about the modular exams next month. Sharma is a second-year AME student and has cleared two semesters.“I am studying at home. Once a week, I along with a few of my classmates visit the instructors’ place and take classes from him to qualify for the modular exams conducted by the DGCA to grant flying licence,” he said.

Some of the students, including Sharma, had tried to get a migration in other flying colleges in Noida and Gurugram. “But even that is not possible because the courses of both the colleges are different,” Sharma said, adding the students are waiting to see what the new management committee will do.

The DFC has a rich legacy with the first president Dr Rajendra Prasad as the patron-in-chief and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, his brother Sanjay Gandhi and former Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik earning their pilot’s licences from here. The club also trained cadets for the air force during the Indo-China war of 1962.

Former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the flying club in 1955. (HT Archives)

Recalling his relationship with the club, PJB Khorana, a retired Indian Air Force officer, said that he had learnt flying at DFC in 1965 from Captain Jhambal and Captain Subhash Saxena, who died with Sanjay Gandhi in an aircraft crash in 1980.

“It breaks my heart to see that the place where I learnt flying has been shut down. It was so exciting to see gliders and aircraft flying in the clear blue skies. It now lies barren,” he said.

Khorana blamed the former management committee of the club for the current state of affairs. “It surrendered the club without consulting its members. But we are going to fight it out and get the club back even if we have to go the Supreme Court for this. It is not just for our nostalgia , we intend to fight because it is also the question of the future of 80 students,” he said.

In 2015, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) issued notice for recovery of revised license fees against which the management committee of the club approached the Delhi high court and filed two writ petitions.

However, the pleas were dismissed following which the AAI issued eviction orders on January 6, 2017. This was followed by another round of litigation, during which on April 24 this year, the committee submitted that they would vacate the premises within two months.

Sanjay Mishra, the president of the new management committee, said they were not aware about the renewal of licence despite the fact that a member of the DGCA was a part of the board of directors.

“We never knew about the renewal of the licence fees. The former management committee surrendered their legal rights without even bothering about the future of the students. We are now helpless and do not have anywhere to go. Our appeal in the Appellate Tribunal seems infructuous, but we are still going to file a civil suit to get our property back,” he said.

First Published: Jul 31, 2018 13:46 IST