Board an airplane for less than $ 1. Surprised?
That is what hundreds of underprivileged kids in India’s national capital do. An aircraft permanently stationed on a patch of land gives them a glimpse of life inside a jet. The plane does not take off. You get the boarding pass, board the flight, see safety instructions, get in-flight snacks, and get to see the cockpit. All for Rs 60.
Retired aircraft engineer Bahadur Chand Gupta is the man behind this virtual flight. Gupta wanted to do something for the people of his village.
They had never been inside an aircraft. They would regularly ask Gupta to show them one when he got a job with an airline. Eventually, he bought an Airbus300 and parked it on a plot of land. “I started this venture in 2002 for people who are poor and cannot pay (airfare). I show them this aircraft,” Gupta says.
First engineer from the village
Gupta comes from a very small village in Haryana (a state in central India). “I am the first engineer from my village. When I went back to my village after joining the Indian Airlines, people in my village said that they wanted to see the aircraft,” he said.
“I took one of my fellow villagers inside the plane on the condition that he would not make any noise. But he was overwhelmed with what he saw and started shouting out of excitement. It was an embarrassing experience for me,” says Gupta.
It was then that he realized that it could have been a security threat. “That was when I thought I should do some arrangement for such people outside the security prone area. Now I get lot of school kids who are studying in various grades. They come here for educational picnic,” he said.
“We also give them instructions on how to save their lives when there is a fall in air pressure in the cabin; how to use life jacket; how to evacuate the aircraft; and the safety drill in the case of smoke and fire,” Gupta says.