For Ravinder Bansal, 68, the highlight of his round-the-world solo flight in a Cessna 400, was when he landed in his hometown of Ambala on the tarmac of the Indian Air Force base, a rare moment for a civilian pilot.
Back in Buffalo, N.Y. on Aug. 20, Bansal called it a “dream fulfilled” and thanked many who had helped him, in his quest to raise awareness about cancer since his sister-in-law died in 2012 from breast cancer, which he told News India Times, could possibly have been averted with early detection and treatment as 90 percent of breast cancer cases are.
“No more flying for me for a while, got to catch up on drumming, golfing and drinking!” Bansal said in his last blog entry after his return. When he spoke to News India Times he was at his wife niece’s wedding in California.
“My trip went pretty smoothly with some minor glitches,” Bansal said. He accomplished much of what he had set out to do with his four goals, he said. He succeeded in a round-the-world solo flight as he had been wanting to for many years; He was able to raise awareness about cancer in rural India from where he came – north of Ambala from the town of Kasauli on the foothills of the Himalayas; raising awareness about the Rotary Ambala Cancer and General Hospital which serves the city and rural areas, and is located in the Ambala Cantonment. Founded in 2005, with the goal of bringing free healthcare to a very poor and underserved community, the hospital began with just a nurse going door-to-door to raise awareness of cancer among the poor. Since then with the help of the Rotarians and citizens of Ambala it has grown into a 100 bed hospital.
“Building a hospital is one thing but continuing its operations is another,” Bansal noted. And those operating funds are crucial he said.
“The Indian media covered my trip extensively; even at the grassroots level. My nephew, for example, is going from school to school to talk about cancer. So there was a lot of discussion about early detection and treatment,” Bansal said. The Ambala hospital also got well-deserved publicity he said, through his campaign. “In Italy I was able to collect $7,000, for instance,” he recalls.
His fourth goal, of helping the hospital buy an MRI machine is however, only partly met. So far, $147,992 of $750,000 goal has been met through donations from 238 people. “Much has been accomplished but a lot more needs to be done!” Bansal says to procure the $750,000 machine, the very basic tool needed for diagnosing cancer. The hospital runs a Sneh-Sparsh (Touch of Love) program to raise awareness for early self-detection, treatment, and after-care regarding cancer in the local community.
Bansal is hoping to start touring Rotary clubs around the country and any other organizations that may invite him in coming months, he said, and hopes to raise the remainder. He also wants to link up with other Indian-American non-profits interested in health care delivery and improving health care services in India.
“It is a lofty goal to raise $750,000, but I do want the hospital to be able to buy a new machine with all the guarantees and technical help available in the purchase,” he told News India Times. “The campaign is not done yet. I will carry on for next two or three months. I would like to approach any organization that will help,” he said.
Bansal is a retired entrepreneur who founded a company, Airsep Corporation, in 1987, manufacturing medical devices, particularly ‘oxygen concentrators’ that help people with emphysema and COPD. From just 3 employees, the company grew to employ 650 people when he sold it in January 2013. He is married to Pratibha Bansal, who runs a pain management clinic for the last 20 years in Buffalo. His older son Rohan Bansal is a mechanical engineer with his own company manufacturing audiology products; his other son Nitin graduated from Northwestern University, Illinois, and is doing his residency at Cornell University Medical Center in New York.
Apart from his passion for flying, Bansal also describes himself as a wannabe drummer. His blog https://raviworldflight.wordpress.com/ with pictures, documents the details of his trip and his website http://raviworldflight.com/ gives details on how to donate for those interested in doing so.