Hyderabad: Hyderabad-based serial and first generation entrepreneur Y Prabhakar Reddy who tested ventures across verticals is seeing immense opportunities in the aviation space. Wings Aviation, a company founded by him, is looking at investing into the sector in the coming years with an eye to spread his operations, nationally, in multiple formats.
Wings Aviation is planning to invest Rs 150 crore for its expansion this year to procure five choppers and two aircraft for its charter business and recently launched air ambulance services- Air Aid. The company currently has a fleet size of 13-comprising aircraft and choppers. It wants to launch an airline next year that will provide regional connectivity, across the country.
India is seeing a boom in aviation, which is going to create a network of 450 airports. The country needs 20,000 pilots by 2020, and there are only 14,000-15,000 pilots. Retirement and attrition are creating a gap in resources needed for the sector. Wings aviation is trying to fill this gap.
Recalling his journey, Wings Aviation chairman and managing director Prabhakar Reddy, who came from an agricultural family, told Telangana Today, “From my childhood I wanted to make a difference to society. So in 1990s, I started law and degree colleges with an aim to impart quality education. With the rapport I had with late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who used to tell me that Hyderabad is the best place for pilot training, I wanted to enter into this space. Rajiv Gandhi wanted me to run an aviation academy here. But after his death in 1991, we couldn’t pursue that idea further. I then went to the US and established few IT companies there. But I was not satisfied. I pursued my pilot training in Florida. Then I decided to come back to India to bring quality pilot training into the country.”
He added, “I established in 1995 Wings Aviation Private limited (WAPL) to launch India’s fully-integrated aviation training provider- Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy, as a division, with an aim to change the face of the country’s aerospace industry. WAPL has worked relentlessly in setting high standards of aviation training and services in India since then. We wanted to foster the vision of Rajiv Gandhi (who was himself a professional pilot) to create dynamic and highly efficient young talent in the aviation industry. So far, about 1,800 pilots (highest in Asia) had been trained by the academy-offering commercial pilot licence, private pilot licence, multi-engine rating, simulator training and flight instructor rating. Of these, 150 pilots are from Telangana alone, including a tribal girl.”
Seeing the contribution the company was making in the aviation training, Kansas (US)-based Cessna Aircraft Company, allotted a Cessna Pilot Center (CPC) to the company, making it the only such centre in the country. Wings Aviation is going to soon launch training programmes for Airbus 320 and Boeing aircraft. The company is in the process of finalising them.
After the aviation academy got stabilised, Wings Aviation opened an aeronautical engineering college at Bowenpally in Hyderabad. This college has already produced 3,000 aeronautical engineers, who are working in the top airlines today. A lot of defence and air force personnel come to the academy for conversion licences to go into civil aviation. With the access to the airports in Hyderabad, Wings Aviation is able to provide good communications infrastructure. The candidates are trained keeping in mind changing weather conditions and emergency situations.
Sharing changing patterns in the candidate profile, he says, many are coming from rural background today, which was not the case five years ago, where people from metro cities usually used to opt for training. Women today constitute about 30-35 of those going for training. Not only from India, there is demand for Indian pilots in Asian and Middle East countries as these nations lack pilot training facilities. Wings Aviation today has a fleet of 13 aircraft.
First air ambulance
Wings Aviation has recently launched a 24/7 air ambulance emergency service, Air Aid, which is touted to be the first of its kind in India. A fleet of Italy-made AgustaWestland AW109 helicopters had been deployed which will travel at a speed of 120 nautical miles per hour and cover 450 kms without refueling.
“The helicopter is fitted with medical equipment such as ventilator, aviation oxygen, defibrillator, multi-parameter monitor, emergency resuscitation kit, burns & medicine kit. Professional pilots, doctors and a medical team (nurse and attendants) will be there to provide immediate treatment to the patient within the golden hour. I want to do something that benefits people,” he said.
Air Aid support can be provided even to rescue operations, evacuations, fires or natural calamities also. It can be used in police emergencies in naxal affected areas. The service is being provided from Begumpet airport in Hyderabad. The company wants to take the service to other major cities across India. The services will be offered in a hub and spoke model where in the helicopters deployed in the city will take care of the surrounding districts.
Wings Aviation also plans to collaborate with major private hospitals to build helipads to ensure smooth landing in emergencies. The company wants to deploy helicopters in Mumbai, Delhi, Bhubhanewsar, Chennai and Bengaluru in the near future. Hyderabad will be able to cater to places such as Karimnagar, Bidar and Gulbarga, Raichur, Bellary and Pune.
Reddy added, “We are seeking Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments to give us blanket approvals for landing and taking off of helicopters. We can reach any place in half-an-hour time. States such as Madhya Pradesh have come out with a model where the State is ensuring organ availability in emergency cases. Other States can also replicate such model.”
Wings Aviation is also planning to acquire an aircraft to cater to the needs of foreign patients (primarily from Africa and Middle East), who are looking for treatment in Indian hospitals, as the country is becoming a major medical tourism hub.
When asked what are the other avenues being explored, he said, “We are looking at a variety of opportunities. We have chartered business. We are also looking at carrying out aerial surveys using the US and Australian aircraft from our existing and future fleet.”