History of Civil Aviation in India

The world’s first airmail service was started in India at Allahabad; on 18th Feb 1911 the occasion of Kumbh mela.This in turn led the beginning of civil aviation in India.On the special day Henry Piquet carried 6500 mails on a Humber biplane from Allahabad to Naini, covering almost a distance of 10km.

The first International flight to and from India was introduced in December 1912 over the route, London-Karachi-Delhi with the collaboration of Indian state air services and UK based imperial airways.

Regular airmail services were started by Tata Sons Ltd, between Karachi and Madrasand.On 24th Jan 1920 Royal airforce started regular airmail services between Karachi and Bombay.

Construction of airports in India started at Dum Dum in Calcutta, Bamrauli in Allahabad and Gillbert hill of Bombay in 1924.

Separate Department of civil aviation was set up in April 1927.Also, Aero club of India was established the same year.

JRD Tata became the first person to be awarded with pilot license by Aeronautique International on behalf of Aero club of India and Burma in Feb 1929.

In 1929 Aga Khan announced a solo race between London and Bombay.There were three participants- JRD Tata, Man Mohan Singh and Aspy Merchant.Man Mohan singh won the race.

Lt Col Shelmerdine became the first Director General of civil aviation (DGCA) IN 1931.

Tata Airlines became a division of Tata Sons Limited in 1932.It started Air Mail services on the Karachi, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Bellary, Madras routes on 15 October.

In 1932 Urmila K.Parikh became the first Indian woman to get a pilot’s license.

A number of other airlines such as Indian Trans Continental Airways, Madras Air Taxi Services, Indian National airways etc commenced in between the year 1933 to 1934

Indian aircraft act was promulgated in 1934 and was formulated in 1937.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) set up by Walchand Hirachand in association with the then Mysore Government in 1940 at Bangalore.

India’s first aircraft, the Harlow trainer was rolled out for test flight in July 1941.

In 1945 the Deccan Airways was founded – jointly owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad and Tata.Its first flight began in July 1946. In 1946 ‘Air India’ came into being when Tata Airlines changed its name to Air India.

In 1948 Air India signed an agreement with the Government to operate international services under the name Air India International Ltd.On June 8 the same year AirIndia inaugurated its international services with a weekly flight between Bombay and London via Cairo and Geneva.

In 1948 Prem Mathur became the first woman commercial pilot and started flying for Deccan Airways. She obtained her commercial pilot’s license in 1947.

In March 1953 the Indian Parliament passed the Air Corporations Act, and Indian Airlines and Air India International were set up after nationalisation of the entire airline industry.At this time eight formerly independent domestic airlines: Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalyan Aviation, Kalinga Air Lines, Indian National Airways,  Air India, Air Services of India were merged.

India’s Civil Helicopter Services was introduced in 1953.

In 1956 Ms. Durba Banerjee was inducted as the first woman pilot of Indian Airlines.

In 1960 India entered the jet age with the introduction of Boeing 707-437 into the fleet of Air India and USA was connected to India for the first time by an Indian airline flight.

In 1972 the International Airports Authority of India (IAAI) was constituted and Vayudoot airlines (a government owned Airline Company) started operation in the year 1981.

In 1984 Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma of Indian Air Force becomes the first Indian cosmonaut and the 138th man in space spending 8 days in space abroad Salyut 7.

In 1985 Captain Saudamini Deshmukh commanded the first all women crew flight on an Indian Airlines Fokker friendship F-27 on the Calcutta-Silchar route. She also commanded the first Boeing all-women crew flight on September 1989 on the Mumbai-Goa sector.

1985 also saw the establishment of Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL) and the establishment of Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy (IGRUA) in Fursatganj, Rai Bareli in Uttar Pradesh for training of pilots.

Year 1985 came to be known as most traumatic year for Indian aviation when Air India flight AI 182 between Montreal and Delhi was blown up by terrorists over the Atlantic Ocean. Following this, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security was established in 1987.

The National Airports Authority was constituted in 1986.

In 1989 Indian Airlines became one of the earliest airline of the world to induct A320s type of aircraft from the Airbus Company.

In 1990-91   the entry of private airlines began, after the de-regulation of the civil aviation sector. Private airlines were given permission to operate charter and non-scheduled services under the ‘Air Taxi’ Scheme. The East West Airlines was  the first national level private airline to operate in the country after almost 37 years.

In 1990 Captain Nivedita Bhasin of Indian Airlines at 26 became the youngest pilot in civil aviation history to command a jet aircraft. She also became the first woman check pilot on an Airbus A300 aircraft.

1990 was also a land-mark year for Indian civil aviation and  Air India when  Air India entered  the Guinness Book of World Records for largest evacuation effort by a single civilian airline when it flew  over 1,11,000  people from Amman to Mumbai in 59 days operating 488 flights just before the Gulf war began.

In 1994, following the repeal of the Air Corporation Act private airlines were permitted to operate scheduled services  and a number of private players including Jet Airways, Air Sahara, Modiluft, Damania Airways, NEPC Airlines and  East West Airlines commenced domestic operations.

In 1995 India’s six private airlines accounted for more than 10% of domestic traffic. Many foreign airlines started providing international services. In 1995, 42 airlines operated air services to, from, and through India.

In 1995 Airport Authority of India (AAI) was constituted after the merging of the International Airport Authority of India with National Airports Authority.

In 1998 Dr. Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-born woman to fly to space as part of a NASA team.

In 1998 the first Private Airport came up in the country in Cochin, Kerala.

1999 was another tragic year in the history of Indian civil aviation when the IC 814 flight of Indian Airlines was hijacked to Kandahar.

In 2003, all the ‘Low Cost Carriers’ included ushers in the country when Air Deccan started its services.

In 2004 Government approved setting up of private airports at Hyderabad and Banglore.

In the December of 2004 Indian Scheduled carriers with a minimum of 5 years of continuous operations and a minimum fleet size of 20 aircraft, were permitted to operate scheduled services to international destinations.

In 2005, rebranding of Indian Airlines was done as Indian. It also saw the entry of the Kingfisher Airlines. This year the Government designated Air India, Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Air Sahara to operate international services.

In 2006 the Government approved the restructuring and modernization of Mumbai and Delhi Airport through Public Private Partnership.

In 2007, Regional Airlines Policy was announced wherein licenses were given for operation of airlines within a particular region.

In 2008 the path breaking Greenfield Airports Policy of the Government was announced.

To regulate the economic aspects of airports, the Parliament passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) bill and the AERA was set up in 2009.

The brand new integrated terminal T-3 was inaugurated in New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport in July 2010 and in December 2010.Pawan Hans started its Sea Plane Services Jal Hans.

At present India holds the 9th largest aviation market in the world with 82 operational airports, 735 aircraft, 12 operational scheduled airlines and 121 non-scheduled operators.  The number of air passengers travelling in India is expected to cross 50 million this year.

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