|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Will Soundarya's death be in vain?
M D Riti | May 05, 2004 18:05 IST
The four-seater Cessna 180 aircraft, in which she was travelling to Hyderabad, crashed into the University of Agricultural Science campus close to the Jakkur aerodrome when it was barely 100 metres up in the air.
The actress, who had recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, was on her way to campaign for the BJP in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
The aircraft belonged to the Agni Aerosports Adventure Academy, which had bought the four-seater single engine plane a year ago from Nexus Computers, a Pondicherry firm. It had logged a total of 7,000 hours of flying time, including about 110 hours with Agni.
Agni is an adventure sports company set up by Captain Arvind Sharma, 35, who learnt to fly nine years ago on a government scholarship. He was until then a computer engineer.
He invested all his savings plus a small loan to buy his first aircraft, which he used to teach people how to fly.
Later, the Karnataka government sold 10 aircraft to him and then hired the same for agricultural purposes. It has an office in the Jakkur aerodrome, which is meant for private flying clubs.
The company is mainly known for its microlyte aircraft. On most Sunday afternoons, you can see flying enthusiasts taking off from Jakkur in its microlyte aircraft.
It also describes itself as India's largest manufacturer of all-metal sports aircraft. It assembles a small two-seater single engine aircraft called the Zenair STOL CH 701, designed by aeronautical engineer Chris Heinz of the US.
It is an all-metal short-take-off-and-landing (STOL) aircraft, which can fly at a top speed of 120kmph. It can be assembled out of a kit, which is freely available. But assembling the aircraft requires some amount of technical knowledge. Besides, one needs some sort of expertise to fly these aircraft, and a licence.
The Director General of Civil Aviation gives out three types of licences:
Unlike Deccan Aviation, with which it shares parking space in Jakkur, Agni does not have a non-scheduled chartered license or an air taxi operator permit (ATOP), which is necessary to give its aircraft to customers on hire. It only has a flight training and academy license and a private operator's license, according to the DGCA.
But many industrialists own helicopters and other aircraft, which have been used by politicians and political parties down the years. In such cases, the aircraft owners usually say they did not give their aircraft on hire, but simply loaned them to the user.
Such deals are the norm in the aviation business.
Agni says the Cessna was used to fly Soundarya, her brother and BJP leader Ramesh Khedam from Bangalore to Hyderabad on the request of Sharma's friend. The aircraft was not hired by the BJP or anyone else, say company officials.
No one is expected to raise uncomfortable questions about the crash and irregularities, if any, involved because all political parties are known to use whatever aircraft are available during elections ignoring niceties like safety norms.
Another reason is that such accidents do not come under deep public scrutiny because private aircraft are used as a mode of transport by only a small section of the population.
The only way for aviation companies to ensure that the death of the four people does not go in vain is by strictly adhering to safety norms and other rules and regulation.
More reports from Karnataka
Read about: Telgi case | H Nagappa Abduction