Jakkur Aerodrome accident: Can extreme sports be regulated?

The death of Ramesh Rao has raised important questions about the extreme sport

Bengaluru: Bengaluru has, over the last few years, established itself as a hub for microlight flying. Adrenalin-junkies from all over the country come to the Jakkur Aerodrome, home to the Bangalore Aerosports Private Limited.

Trial instruction flights are part of the procedure and enthusiasts are allowed to take control of the aircraft, with an instructor present. The death of Ramesh Rao, one of the city's most experienced microlight pilots, however, has raised important questions about the extreme sport - can it be regulated in anyway?

"Obtaining a microlight pilot license is very difficult," said CB Ramkumar, founder of Our Native village and President of the Karnataka Tourism Forum, who is an experienced scuba diver - another high-risk sport. "It's a very certified programme. Even when I trained for my scuba diving license, I went through a rigorous process. You really have to work hard, there are theory and practical aspects to it. All the training is about the risks involved."

It's not quite the same, he said, as adventure sports are open to amateurs. "Bungee jumping and white water rafting can be done by anybody, so the organisers need to bear all the responsibility. At the end of the day, taking to sports like these is based on an individual license."

Adventure tourism of all kinds is quite commonplace across the tourism board, said V. Ravichandar, who is co-chair of the Karnataka Tourism Vision Group. "It requires what I call a 'common sensical' application of rules and regulations, because it does come with a certain risk." Sane and safe precautions must be held in place by guidelines that should be followed at all times, he explained.

"The government should not adopt an overly-cautious attitude toward these sports, because of one incident," he said. "In New Zealand, which is famous for adventure tourism, 12 people were killed in a parajumping incident, despite a host of regulations being in place." There are three main points for regulatory bodies to focus on, he said. "Reasonable regulation, the sensible exercise of discretion by the individual and the insurance claims. Premiums are sold at much higher rates to people doing adventure sports and the government really should shed some light on this."

The aviation industry is very well regulated, argued Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Karnataka Tourism Vision Group. "There are plenty of rules in place to ensure the safety of the flier, and the individual must take every care to be responsible and ensure that every norm is properly met."

‘He was a good friend and generous soul’

“Ramesh was a really good guy. I keep going back to that, because at the end of the day, that's what he was,” said Arjun Sajnani, an old and dear friend of Ramesh Rao, wine maker and ad man, who died when his microlight plane crashed near Kodagu on Sunday.

"We had worked together on a play many years ago, our relationship had many facets to it. He would drop by at the restaurant from time to time, either for a meal or to introduce a new wine and chat for a bit. Now, I wish I'd attended all his parties, I wish I'd spent a little more time with him. That's how we are, we understand how much we love someone only when he is lost."

Rao, who was the MD of Scion Advertising Pvt. Ltd in Bengaluru, has worked with a number of big brands including Indian terrain, Cafe Coffee Day and Dark Forest. After that, he moved into another labour of love - winemaking - when he set up Mandala Valley, with its head office in Indiranagar's 12th Main. Microlight flying became one more passion, one that received a great deal of his love and time. The founder of the Bangalore Flying Club, Rao often flew sorties to Kodagu in his aircraft.

"We had long sessions together, he was the one person who supported us completely whenever our resort had anything to do with wine," said CB Ramkumar, founder of Our Native Village. "My nephew is obsessed with flying and Ramesh took him on his microlight once. We've known each other around seven years and we hit it off as soon as we met. He was a generous, beautiful soul and it's shocking to hear this. He was a knowledgeable, mature man, with a very high moral compass - he loved to fly, but he wasn't the sort of man to take a risk. He was an experienced pilot, too, apart from being a conscentious, diligent person. He never wanted to be a young hero, he only ever did what was right."

Urban expert V. Ravichandar, who also had a longstanding relationship with Rao, describes him as "an outstanding individual with multi-farious interests. He and Priya were a wonderful couple," he said.

"The way he cared for her was a sight to behold, a model, really. I can't believe I only saw him four days ago - he was talking about his aicraft, too. It's not fair for something like this to have happened to someone so nice."

( Source : dc )
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