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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

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Geared for take off



The fantastic five: Adheesha, Chathura, Sachith, Kalhara and Sudara. Pictures by Saman Sri Wedage

There are many species which fly over the city in this part of the country. Birds are always plentiful here but those who are fascinated by flying machines are especially drawn to all sorts of man-made wondrous things that fill the sky.

Those who had the opportunity to drop by Nalanda College, Colombo, on International Children's Day last month were in for a treat. A group of energetic lads got together to fill the air with models of flying objects of various shades and shapes. This was not meant as a mere spectacle but proved to be a hub of knowledge as well. Titled the Nalandian Air Show, the project was spearheaded by the 2011/2012 board members of the Nalanda College Aeronautical Society. 2012 marked the second year in which the Air Show took off.

The boys of the society have always possessed a passion for flying. They have often searched the skies for the occasional plane to fly by. Be it the propeller planes, jet planes, helicopters, or even the occasional Kafir or MIG 27, observing these beauties have been a great way to expand their interest towards the fascinating mode of travel. This is where their 'spark' lit up and become a lifetime interest.

"We mainly focus on upgrading the knowledge of our fellow students. We managed to rouse interest among them and increase the membership. SriLankan Airlines and the Sri Lanka Air Force help us conduct a course on the subject. We started it in 2008. We have got a certificate approved by the Civil Aviation Unit for this," President Adheesha Gunawardana said.

The society was established in 1952. Though many other schools too have similar societies, Nalanda College has topped the list and has maintained their standards to become the only school eligible for the certificate.


Nalanda College Aeronautical Society members with their teacher in charge and principal
Wings An exhibit at the Nalanda Walk 2012 s of the Maroons

"Our members are from grade six to the Advanced Level classes. They have to sit for an exam and they are graded according to their performance. The certificate is issued at four levels. There are a lot of benefits connected with the field. You get to meet the key players in the segment as well as learn the ropes. Many of our past members have joined the field and they have learnt their basics during their school years. It set the foundation for their career. They have joined various sectors in the field such as the airlines and have excelled in their profession. They have been a strength to us," Treasurer Sachith Munasinghe noted.

The certificate is valid in any field connected with aviation across the world. Nalandians have the privilege of obtaining this free of charge based on their performance at the exam. All of the past Presidents of the college have made it to the top ranks in the aviation sector.

"Many students are still not aware of these details. We are creating awareness among our peers so that they too will be able to pursue professions in the aviation sector. They think aviation involves piloting but it is much more than that. There are opportunities beyond the borders. You get aeronautical engineers, air traffic controllers and many other professions in the maintenance side. It has a lot of perks. The aeronautical field is the second best paid profession in the world. It comes second only to the marine field," Gunawardana added.

Among the other highlights of the society's agenda is the Nalanda Walk 2012. The team managed to borrow a mini 500 helicopter from the Asian Aviation Centre.

"We also held a workshop on how model aircrafts function. The lectures were conducted by members from the Air Force. There was a practical side to this programme. They brought parts of an aircraft along with them, fixed them together and showed onlookers how the model takes off into the sky. We also had a stall about aviation at the Future Minds exhibition. We displayed a lot of equipments connected with the field and explained them to the visitors," Secretary Chathura Ranaweera elaborated adding that they had a lot of positive feedback at the event. Many youth had expressed the desire to launch an aviation society in their own schools and engage in similar activities. They also had a simulator at the event and held a demonstration.

Speaking about why he decided to become a member of the Nalanda College Aeronautical Society Editor Kalhara Dasun said that he had always looked towards a future in the aviation sector.

An exhibit at the Nalanda Walk 2012
Moments from the Air Show

"We had about twenty engine powered and fuel powered planes at our first Air Show," he reflects on how he witnessed the spectacular models zooming skywards.

Munasinghe says that a board generally organizes around five or six annual events. They take part in Future Minds, the Padmini Rajapaksa All Island Quiz Competition, Nalanda Walk and quiz competitions organized by SriLankan Airlines, Civil Aviation Authority and other schools.

"We also organize workshops and night camps. SriLankan Airlines and Sri Lankan Air Force lecturers conduct lectures within the society every Tuesday afternoon. The exam and annual general meeting marks the closure of the year," he said.

Reflecting on his experiences as a society member Sudara Withane said that he had joined the society from 2009. Withane is the Chief Organizer of Nalanda College Aeronautical Society and says that team spirit is the key to their success.

He said, "That is one of the aspects which help us reach our goals. Since we are issued with the certificate, it acts as the stepping stone to the field. My ambition is to become an aeronautical engineer."

Due to the vast interest and demand from other schools the boys have plans to launch a campaign to spread their knowledge among younger students. They have already established Aeronautical Societies at D S Senanayake College, Colombo, and Joseph Vaz College, Wennappuwa.

"Our target is to form a network among the Colombo schools and then take it to other areas in the country," Munasinghe explained.

Besides Adheesha, Chathura, Sachith, Kalhara and Sudara, other members of the top board of the Nalanda College Aeronautical Society are Chief Coordinator Nipun Jayatilake and Movindu Amarasinghe.

The boys expressed their gratitude to Air Operation Air Vice Marshal Gagan Bulathsinhala, Aeronautical Engineering Director Air Vice Marshal Jayanath Kumarasiri, Squadron Leaders Poojana Gunathilaka and Muditha Mahawattage. They also noted that their teacher in charge Shiromi Ratnayake and Nalanda College Principal Ranjith Jayasundara have been pillars of strength to them.
 

Explaining the procedures at the Future Minds exhibition  

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