Pune: Group Captain Nitin Welde (Retd) Talks About Accessible Helicopter Journeys; Watch Video

Pune: Group Captain Nitin Welde (Retd) Talks About Accessible Helicopter Journeys; Watch Video

Speaking about joyrides in Pune, which commence from the Oxford Golf Course Helipad in Bavdhan and extend up to the Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Mandir, Group Captain Nitin Welde (Retd) mentioned that the cost per person is approximately ₹5,000 for an eight-minute ride, with customised pricing available based on client preferences

Gaurav KadamUpdated: Saturday, February 03, 2024, 01:48 PM IST
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Pune: Group Captain Nitin Welde (Retd) Talks About Accessible Helicopter Journeys; Watch Video |

Pune, despite lacking a dedicated civilian airport and with the proposed one still far from realisation, boasts one of the largest helicopter fleets in the country, Group Captain Nitin Welde (Retd) told The Free Press Journal in a free-wheeling chat. Presently, the city hosts approximately 19 helicopters, a fleet size even surpassing that of Mumbai, the country's industrial capital. These helicopters, owned by individuals and private firms, serve a myriad of purposes for the common people, ranging from joyrides to temple visits.

Welde, associated with Mahalaxmi Aviation, a firm offering private charter helicopter services, emphasised the firm's ethos of making unique experiences accessible to all. He shared, "If an International Baccalaureate (IB) student travels by plane, it may not seem remarkable to him, but exposing a Zilla Parishad school student to such an experience can inspire a whole new generation." He attributed this philosophy to the firm's founder, Dattatraya Gote Patil.

The array of services provided by the firm is extensive, encompassing a wide range of occasions including wedding transportation, aerial flower showers, joyrides, birthday celebrations, and even pilgrimages to destinations like Kedarnath and Badrinath. Reflecting on some remarkable moments, Welde recalled, "In a nearby village, a father-in-law arranged for the son-in-law's entry to the wedding hall via helicopter. As we waited with the helicopter powered down, the bride, groom, and their families approached. The groom's blindfold was removed as they neared the helicopter, creating a truly memorable experience. In another remarkable incident, a three-week-old baby was welcomed by her grandmother aboard a helicopter, accompanied by her mother."

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Speaking about joyrides in Pune, which commence from the Oxford Golf Course Helipad in Bavdhan and extend up to the Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Mandir, Welde mentioned that the cost per person is approximately ₹5,000 for an eight-minute ride, with customised pricing available based on client preferences. During these rides, passengers can enjoy breathtaking views of prominent landmarks such as MIT World Peace University (MIT-WPU), Chandni Chowk, Deccan Gymkhana Ground, Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce (BMCC), Fergusson College, Mahatma Phule Mandai, Vetal Tekdi, and Pashan Lake. Additionally, there is an option for a slightly longer 15-minute ride covering Katraj and Hadapsar.

Looking ahead, Welde expressed optimism about the untapped potential in the field, particularly in medical transportation. He envisioned a future where helicopters could swiftly transport organs, potentially saving lives.

Reflecting on his journey into the Indian Air Force, Welde recounted, "Joining the NCC marked the initial stride towards realising my aspirations. In 1992, I had the privilege of participating in the Republic Day Parade and clinching a gold and a silver medal for Maharashtra. Subsequently, through the Youth Exchange Programme, I embarked on a three-week stint in the United Kingdom. The same year, securing the top rank nationwide in the Combined Defence Services examination paved my path to joining the Air Force in 1993. I was allocated to the helicopter stream. My maiden posting took me to the North East. Later, I spent two years in Siachen. I then transitioned into an instructional role, mentoring cadets and eventually earning an upgrade in my instructional category. The Government of India then entrusted me with the task of training Namibian pilots on a diplomatic assignment. Following my return from Namibia, I embarked on another instructional endeavor, 'Train the Trainers,' at the Flying Instructors’ School. Subsequently, I pursued a leadership course at the Defence Services Staff College. This was followed by an assignment in Indonesia, which necessitated mastering the local language. Upon my return, I assumed a leadership role in Udhampur, where I was involved in a life-saving mission that earned me the Gallantry Award bestowed by the President of India."

Regarding the role of women in civil aviation, Welde emphasised gender equality, noting the competence of female aviators and professionals in the industry. "Women are as good as men. I have trained with women, I have trained women. The chief engineer at our company is a woman," he noted.

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