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School turns playground into helipad for VIPs

Activists claim heliport in Palli village lacks fire-fighting equipment, other mandatory licences; principal says ground is institute's property, no one has right to impose restrictions on it

A halipad constructed on the private ground of G B Vader school and college in Palli village located in Sudhagad taluka, Raigad district, about 110 km from the city, may come under the scanner of the airport authorities as citizen trekkers and activists claim that the school turned the ground meant for schoolchildren into a heliport without the mandatory permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).


No place to play: The GB Vader school ground that is being used as a
helipad. Pic/Adnan Attarwala 


These activists, who are planning to write to the DGCA, say that the playground for students has been converted into a helipad for ministers and other VIPs. Since the area is in close proximity to the famous Ashtavinayak temple, activists say there are chances that it could be misused for any anti-social activities or for contraband.

Who gave the nod?
Sources say that this is the only helipad in the surrounding districts of the city that has been constructed on about two acres of dry grass without the necessary infrastructure, fire-fighting equipment or security, which is essential under the DGCA laws, lest there is an accident. Wanting to know why the school playground was converted into a helipad, Jiten G, an activist and regular trekker in the area, said, "It should be known why the school has given permission to construct a helipad in an area which is close to the forest and a temple. The school authority has marked the ground with the letter 'H' signifying that the ground is being used permanently as a helipad." This is wrong, he added. 

When contacted the school, an authority said that the ground was the property of the school and it was open for everyone to use. For conducting parties and other private programs an individual would first have to write an application seeking permission.

School says
"There are many fields in the other surrounding villages, which are being used as private heliports. The ground is the school's property and no one has the right to impose restrictions. We'll do anything we want with it," said principal, G Jawardhan, who refused to comment further when asked if they had permission from Airport Authority of India (AAI) or DGCA for the same.

According to K F Prajapati, a senior official from the Air Traffic Control Department, before landing anywhere a Prior Permission Required (PPR) is necessary and before a helicopter takes off it is mandatory to record the timings, plans and other details. "Since I am not sure about the helipad at Palli, we'll have to investigate," he added.   

DGCA director, Bharat Bhushan said, "Of late licencing is seldom given to helicopters and for helipads there are certain guidelines under Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) which one has to adhere to. However, I am not aware of this matter. It could be a private dispute between the school authority and the activists who are opposing the helipad."  

Helipad guidelines
DGCA norms listed
under the CAR
>> Prior permission needs to be sought before setting up a helipad. 
>> Heliport should be of adequate size to accommodate big choppers. 
>> Essential infrastructure, equipment and personnel for fire-fighting must be available.

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