Grounded Airbus delights Indian children

NEW DELHI, Oct 27, 2007 (AFP) – Teenager Josman T. Jose fastens her seat belt, listens to the pilot’s instructions, is served lunch by an air hostess and two hours later jumps out the emergency door of an Airbus. It is the first time the schoolgirl has seen an aircraft from inside and her excitement is palpable, even though the jet is in fact a decommissioned plane parked on a plot of land near New Delhi’s domestic airport.

“It’s a great experience and will be very useful when I fly in future,” she said of her time on the plane, which every week draws scores of schoolchildren and curious onlookers who have never seen a plane up close.

Of the 55 school girls who took a “flight,” only three had ever flown before, despite a boom in air travel.

Industry experts say nearly 100 million Indians are likely to travel by plane this year — compared to less than 50 million in 2003-04 — but still a small proportion in a country of 1.1 billion people.

“Most people in India have not seen an aircraft. I have been flooded with requests,” said the plane’s owner Bahadur Chand Gupta, a retired aircraft engineer.

“I was the first aircraft engineer in my village. Back in 1980, I was treated as if I were the