H O F T E C
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 representative of the 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 his inaugural address, Hofmann raised the issue of why a nation that has harnessed nuclear power, and developed communication satellite technology and supercomputers can boast an airplane population that is only 1/1000th that of Canada's and has no airplane manufacturers.
He said, "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 realised 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 appropriate regulations to permit it." Hofmann pledged the support of IAOPA to help AOPA India and the Indian government achieve a freer and more vibrant aviation community.
The Transport Minister, speaking after Hofmann, took advantage of Hofmann's remarks to openly chastise his own bureaucrats, challenging them to develop regulations which would foster flying in India, and thus reap the economic benefits of a healthy General Aviation industry. His candid and whole hearted support of the ideas presented by Hofmann were heralded by the newly formed AOPA India as good news indeed for their hopes of stimulating the aviation climate of their country.
While in India Hofmann was introduced to the students, staff and facilities of the Ahmedabad Aviation Academy, an aviation college whose organisation he found to be exemplary. “It matches even the best in North America,” Hofmann said. He continued, “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, Hofmann and his wife were greeted by a parade of 25 uniformed, bright and eager young student pilots. “Just like their counterparts in North America,” Hofmann reported, “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 the directorship of AOPA India is in a fledgling state, Hofmann found they have significant industrial support and have managed to establish credible offices and a secretariat. One of their first orders of business was to take Hofmann to a 900 foot strip, far into the country, where one of the AOPA directors had carved out an Ultralight strip, erected a hangar, put an Indian-made Ultralight into it, and posted a 24-7 guard to watch over it all. Hofmann was delighted to be given a flight - becoming one of only a few people in India to have flown an Ultralight over India. Operations of this aircraft are restricted to a 3 mile radius and under 700 feet. As Hofmann points out, “However minimal the liberty, this in fact represents a significant victory for GA in a country operating on rules that even the Transport Minister claims are essentially unchanged since 1937.”
Illustrating the true spirit of what the people of India really want, though, was the group of about 25 people, mostly youngsters, who suddenly materialised before the end of Hofmann's flight. They had run from hither and yon at the first sights and sounds of the aircraft. Now they sat mesmerised, in awe of this machine which moments earlier flew over them.
“There is scope for tremendous growth in aviation in India,” says Hofmann. “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 finally the will - both political and social - to develop the dream.” Hofmann went on, “As I looked at the eager group that had gathered to see the bright yellow Ultralight flying above them, I thought that at that very moment I was looking at the future direction of aviation in India.”
Frank Hofmann's total Inaugural Address can be viewed on http://www.hoftec.com under 'ICAO'.
Frank Hofmann is a COPA Director for Quebec, COPA Secretary and IAOPA Representative to ICAO