In the language of Hindi, the word ‘Bahadur’ translates as ‘Brave’ and former Pilot Bahadur Chand Gupta is certainly that; some may also say a little eccentric too. His disused Airbus A300 may be parked stationary in a warehouse in New Delhi, but it gives flight to the hopes and dreams of local young children daily!
India may have one of the largest aviation markets in the world, but for large sections of its poorest communities air travel is something they just have never been able to experience, or even wish to experience in some cases.
From his flying days, Gupta who is now retired from pilot duties at 60, was regularly asked by local people from his village whether he could take them onto a plane to show them around or even allow them to join him on flights.
“I belong to a small village in Haryana and when I qualified as an aircraft engineer, so many people would ask me if I could take them onto an aircraft. Due to security reasons it was never possible and so I got the idea to purchase a disused plane and create what is now called Aeroplanet project,” Bahadur Chand Gupta told us.
Gupta is the proud owner of an Airbus A300 which he initially spent many years to restore and maintain the decommissioned craft’s glory so that both local children and elders alike could get a feel of a plane.
Aeroplanet is primarily used as an established Center for Civil Aviation Training in India, and is run along with the help of his wife Nirmal Jindal. The training center teaches airline staff the procedures of what to do in emergency situations such as in the event of an evacuation and provides an on-the-ground simulation on how to operate the machinery in such circumstances.
Bringing the aircraft to the Dwarka neighbourhood in New Delhi, India was certainly no easy task but then Gupta wasn’t too concerned about the logistical side… he was determined to bring his dream of inspiring others to fly become a reality.
“It is a fairly large aircraft and weighs upto 80 tonnes. The roads leading to this place are very narrow with several wires running overhead. It was a difficult task and to overcome it the aircraft was dismantled into numerous pieces. From chairs to engine, everything was removed and was reassembled here under my supervision,” Gupta told reporters in India.
Schools travel to Gupta’s Aeroplanet for fun, learning and to awaken a sense of adventure for the thousands of kids who visit, many of whose parents are unable to afford a real flying experience or who may be too afraid of flying because they had never had the opportunity to do so throughout their lives.
Gupta, having now retired from flying himself has found what he feels is his own small legacy to be able to instill the dream of flying in the minds of those who may not feel it is something they themselves will every get to do. Speaking about how it feels to be able to inspire what could be a future generation of young pilots in India, Gupta told us:
“God is Great that he has allowed me the opportunity to do this. So far, thousands and thousands of children, elderly, school teachers and local people have visited Aeroplanet and may they continue to do so into the future!”
The Aeroplanet is open from 9.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. Monday to Saturday with a small entrance fee charged on the basis of the paying capacity of the visitor while for the economically weaker sections it is free.
“Any collections simply go towards the upkeep of the facility,” informs Gupta.