Monday, May 26, 2014

Grounded club

Towards the northern end of the Chennai airport complex, a little beyond the old terminal, there is a small board marking the presence of a club that was a pioneer, even though it has gone to seed in recent times. The board says "Madras Flying Club". The first time the board went up was in 1930, after a bunch of flying enthusiasts received a subsidy from the government of India to set up a flying club.

The Madras Flying Club (MFC) became functional in July 1930, even though the subsidy was available to them in March/April that year. The delay was to ensure that a qualified instructor, as well as an engineer, were in place before flying classes began. Quite appropriately, the first pilot instructor of this club was Flt Lt Hawker, with Hulcop as his first engineer. Even after their arrival, the then governor of Madras, Sir George Frederick Stanley, waited for another month before formally inaugurating the club, as its first 'Patron'. Lady Beatrix Stanley may have had some difficult moments pronouncing the names of the first 2 aircraft of the club as she christened them: "Garuda" and "Pushpaka". Over the years, the MFC had a stellar record, until it started losing its way in the new millenium. 

In January 2012, the only instructor of the MFC retired after he turned 65; since then, the Club has not been able to attract anyone to come on board and take charge. They also have had run-ins with the regulatory authorities, and with all that, activities at the club have come to a standstill. The Airports Authority of India, probably vexed with all the inactivity, has served notice to the MFC to vacate the space it is blocking currently. Hopefully, the one of the first flying clubs in the country will not come crashing, but will find fresh wind beneath their wings soon!

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