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The Flying Indian

My current reading is the biography of J.R.D. Tata (by R.M. Lala) since the past few days. It was probably just a coincidence that I read the chapter titled – ‘Getting Airborne’ which covered the birth of Indian aviation while I waited on the Bhopal Airport and during the flight to Mumbai. But as I flew from Raja Bhoj Airport (Bhopal) to Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport (Mumbai) in flat 1.5 hours I could compare my present with the text and it was exciting to make this comparison.
Here are some quotes from the chapter which enthused me:

“the only place to suitable to fly or land in Bombay were the mud-flats in Juhu, a fishing village and a beach resort….”
[Juhu? A village? … Mud Flats as am air strip for the country’s commercial capital?? ]

“Captain Newall was keen on a passenger service than a mail service… Newall wrote to Peterson: “We do not agree with you . . . at Rs 100 per seat (Karanchi - Bombay) we feel confident they will do so…”
[Rs 100!!!!!!! Gosh … sure I would love to board this flight!]

“London Airport was a wide stretch of area with hardly any development – a large number of rabbits and hare could be seen jumping around. The only person who had a right to shoot them was the Commandant of the airport”
[Is that why its called the Heathrow? Hare-Throw (PJ ..sorry) ]

Directorate of Civil Aviation in 1933: “As an example of how an airmail service should be run, we commend the efficiency of Tata Airlines who … completed a years working with 100% punctuality … our esteemed trans-continental might send their staff on deputation to Tatas to see how it is done.”
[Can Indian Airlines (which is what Tata Airlines was renamed as) still boast of this?]

The inaugural flight of an air service from Willingdon aerodrome in Delhi to Juhu aerodrome in Bombay was a grand occasion… The planes were to halt at three princely states – Gwalior, Bhopal, Indore …The report of the whole ceremony was broadcast.”
[Bhopal had an airport since those times! This is for those who call Bhopal a rural-city!]

JRD’s thoughts while creating Air India – “…expansion into external services and, if possible, all the way to England… if India were to at all to enter the field of long range international services she mist do so quickly as, once foreign airlines were entrenched on all the world’s best routes, India’s entry would become difficult and financially risky proposition. Apart from her own growing importance as a great trade and travel center, India had a commanding strategic position astride the only practical air route from Europe to Far East and Australia….”

J.R.D. to the Rotary Club in 1933: “We look forward confidently to the day when none of you will think of traveling or sending letters by any way other than air, and when this time comes, if we have done our bit in helping India to make up for the lost time, and to attain a position in aviation worthy of her, we shall have achieved our purpose and we shall be satisfied”

The times that JRD dreamt of are not there yet but – with the host of low cost airlines coming in, they seem just round the corner. JRD would have loved these times in the aviation industry. We must all salute the man for his vision which put India on the world’s aviation map so early on.


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