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Book catches fascinating flight of Indian aviation

books Updated: Mar 15, 2012 11:19 IST

IANS
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Did you know that as many as 10 private airlines were operating in India in 1948? Or that the air ticket between Calcutta and Delhi cost Rs.126 at that time? Or that the Indian Airlines got its first woman pilot in 1956?

Such nuggets of information have been brought out in a book published by the ministry of civil aviation to commemorate 100 years of civil aviation in India.

The coffee table book, "100 years of Civil Aviation in India", released at India Aviation 2012 here, catches the evolution of India's civil aviation sector from the first commercial flight Feb 18, 1911 to its emergence as the ninth largest market in the world today.

The 200-page book with photographs and illustrations gives a gripping account of the sector's journey from pre-independence era to nationalisation of the sector after independence and its transformation under the 'open skies' policy of 1990.

The book takes one back to the times when cities like Karachi, Bhuj, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Goa, Bellary, Cannanore, Trivandrum, Trichinopoly, Colombo, Dacca, Rangoon, Madras, Hyderabad, Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior and Delhi were all on the route map of different airlines.

While it was Feb 18, 1911 that French pilot Henri Pequet flew a Humber Bi-plane from Allahabad to Nain, a distance of six miles, it was only in 1932 that J.R.D. Tata, who was the first to get a pilot license, started the first domestic airline Tata Sons.

It started weekly air services between Karachi and Madras, touching Ahmedabad, Bombay and Bellary en route, connecting with the weekly Imperial Airways flight from London to Karachi.

Operating with two second hand De Havilland Puss Moths, Tata Sons accumulated a profit of Rs.10,000 in the first year. The next year saw airlines like Indian Trans Continental Airways (ITCA), Madras Air Taxi Services and Indian National Airways (INA) commencing their operations.

INA started a weekly service between Calcutta and Rangoon and between Calcutta and Dacca for carriage of passengers, mail and freight. Hindustan Aircraft Ltd was set up in Bangalore while Nizam's State Railway, Tata Sons and the public jointly floated Deccan Airways in Hyderabad.

Himalayan Air Transport Company in 1935 introduced a flight between Hardwar and Gaucher, a pastureland along the river Alaknanda. It was the first pilgrimage air link in India.

Tata Airlines converted into a public company and re-named Air India Ltd in 1946. Air India International was incorporated in 1948 and it inaugurated a weekly flight between Bombay and London, via Cairo and Geneva.

It was in 1953 that the government formed two nationalised corporations: Indian Airlines Corporation and Air India International.

Eight formerly independent domestic airlines, Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga Airlines, Indian National Airways, Air India and Air Services of India, merged into Indian Airlines Corporation.

The book also highlights the significant milestones like Prema Mathur becoming the world's first woman commercial pilot with Deccan Airways, Hyderabad in 1951 and the induction of Durba Banerjee as the first woman pilot of Indian Airlines in 1956.

The year 1960 marked a landmark in Air India's history as it ushered in the commercial jet age by ordering the Boeing 707 jetliner. Air India extended its Bombay-London service to New York.

India's aviation sector underwent a major transformation in 1990 with the 'open-skies' policy. The same year Air India entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest evacuation effort by a single civilian airline. It airlifted 111,711 Indian workers from the Gulf during 59 days by 488 flights during the Gulf war.

In 2003, low-cost carriers came into India, and Air Deccan started its services. Modernisation of airports was taken up and new Greenfield airports came up in Hyderabad and Bangalore.