Student was 'petrified' of instructor

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:42 20/11/2012

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A former student of a now-grounded flying school says she was "petrified" when she was elbowed and threatened in midair.

Last year Srishti Vijay studied at the Wings Flight Training Academy in Palmerston North. She accuses director Ravindra Pal Singh, 65, of assaulting her while she was at the controls of an airplane.

On seven flights between May and July 2011, it is alleged Singh elbowed Vijay, while on two occasions he is accused of holding his hand over her head in a threatening manner.

The Palmerston North District Court had previously heard from Illyas Valiyapeediyekal, who said Singh slapped him in the face and shoved his head against the side of the cockpit on June 25 last year.

Two other former students also accused Singh of assault but those charges were dropped as the students have left New Zealand.

Wings, which offered flying courses to Indian students, ceased trading last summer.

Singh denies two charges of common assault. He says a "group" of failing students made up the allegations in part so their stay in New Zealand could be extended.

Vijay, who spent almost the entire second day of the case's hearing in the witness box yesterday, said Singh would lose his temper during flights and shout at her, telling her she was doing something wrong.

She said she found his conduct "intimidating".

"He used to elbow me twice or thrice in every flight," she said.

"My right arm was on the throttle, which controls the power of the aircraft. Quite a lot of times the power of the aircraft would cut," she said.

"I just used to come back off the flight and cry."

Vijay said in flight debriefs Singh would call her a "dumb girl".

She was now studying towards her commercial pilot's licence in Christchurch, having taken time off last year because of stress.

Defence lawyer Tony Thackery asked her whose idea it was to make up "stories" about Singh.

"There are no stories and it was no-one's idea," Vijay said.

"It's quite a clever complaint because it's just your word against his word," Thackery said.

Vijay denied she was falling behind while at Wings and that she skipped classes.

"There were no classes."

Thackery accused Vijay of exaggerating the elbowing, saying it was something that would "happen naturally" between the student and instructor as they bumped together.

Vijay stuck to her version of events, saying she was "petrified".

"I'd never experienced something like that."

She also denied being "put up" to giving evidence against Singh by a group of former Wings students.

"There was no gang. There were almost 20 students who took a refund from the school," Vijay said of the students who left Wings late last year when problems began boiling over.

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- Manawatu Standard

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