Ambala-origin NRI to fly solo across world to raise funds for MRI machine
Ravinder K Bansal with the Cessna 400 plane in which he will fly solo around the world. He plans to leave Clarence town near Buffalo, US, on July 4 and reach Ambala by July 27.punjab Updated: Jul 18, 2017 09:40 IST
At 68, Ravinder K Bansal will fly solo across the world, for a cause.
On July 4, the Haryana-origin retired businessman will take off in his single-engine Cessna 400 from Buffalo Niagara International Airport in the US to raise $750,000 (Rs 4.83 crore) for a hospital in his hometown of Ambala.
The aim of the 19,878-mile (31,990-km) trip is to generate funds to buy an MRI machine for the Rotary Ambala Cancer and General Hospital, set up in 2005.
“It’s not only an adventure that I have been dreaming about for a while, but will also get the hospital the much-needed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment. It will help generate awareness about cancer in villages around Ambala,” he says in an email interview.
“I grew up in Kasauli and Ambala. Both places are forever etched in my memory. My father, Dr Chater Muni Bansal, was the lone private physician at Kasauli, where I did my schooling. I shifted to Ambala to attend SD College and stayed with my elder brother, Subhash, and his wife, Sneh. She was like an elder sister and the kindest person I know. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and died in 2012, but while going through chemotherapy (for which she had to go to Ludhiana often), she provided the spark that led Ambala Rotarians to set up the Rotary Ambala Cancer and General Hospital,” he says.
“To me, helping this 100-bed hospital, which provides healthcare at a nominal cost, is to honour her. That’s why I’m taking this flight,” Bansal says of his mission.
Bansal, who lived at Clarence near Buffalo for 40 years, was the owner of AirSep, a multimillion-dollar medical oxygen therapy equipment company that he built from three employees to over 600 only to sell it for more than $170 million three years ago. He is spending $100,000 (Rs 64.4 lakh) on the trip in his plane of 11 years.
“I learned flying at Georgia Institute of Technology when I was working on my PhD in mechanical engineering from 1974-77. I found flying to be thrilling. Pilots don’t need to be crazy but being a bit crazy helps,” he says when asked what inspires him.
Bansal is expected to reach Chandigarh on July 27. “Both Chandigarh and Ambala are military airports. Landing will require special permission from the Indian Air Force. I prefer to land at Ambala,” he says.
The last time he visited his hometown was in December 2014. “Most of my memories are tied to my stay with my sister-in-law. I miss her the most. Visiting the hospital in her memory was a touching experience. I may live in the US but I’m Indian at heart. When anything good happens in India, it makes us proud abroad,” he says.
Bansal’s wife Pratibha is nervous but supportive. She is a practising pain management physician and a clinical faculty member of the State University of New York Medical School at Buffalo. “She has been instrumental in starting Sneh Sparsh, a free palliative care service to terminally ill cancer patients,” he says.
How to help
Bansal will be blogging throughout the trip on raviworldflight.com. Readers can help his cause by donating through his website.
A satellite tracking device in his plane will allow the website to follow his flight path, live on a map, to 18 countries and 34 airports.
Ready for takeoff
Besides choosing the route based on his airplane’s range, availability of gas it uses, air space/landing permits and visa availability, Bansal says he got ready for the trip by preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
“I’ll avoid bad weather. I’ve practised engine out landing; undergone ditching and survival training. I’ll be carrying back-up portable avionics. If the plane goes down in water, I’m carrying PLB (personal locater beacon), satellite tracking SOS, survival packs containing food, water and flares,” he says.
He estimates the trip to take six weeks, but weather and other factors could stretch it to three months, especially in the hurricane season.