“CENTURY – OLD “  The Saga of Indian Civil Aviation

1903 was recorded as a magical moment in the history of humankind when Wright brothers got airborne first time in the heavier than air – aircraft. Shortly after a span of 7 years Indian skies witnessed

The marvels of scientific wonders of that era. In 1910 a group of aviators and mechanics, led by Capt Windham visited India bringing several aircrafts in a hope to avail the opportunity of business by exhibiting and demonstrating flying. The humbler company (British automobile) asked Capt Windham to head towards Allahabad after reaching Bombay (Mumbai).Allahabad not only provided the distinction to India but also for the Asian continent as well in linking the scientific wonders. On December 5, 1910, a plane was assembled in less than five days. Early morning of December 10, 1910, the airplane ‘BLERIOT’ circled around the polo ground flying approximately 25 to 30 feet above the ground. The demonstration sole purpose was for agriculture and industrial purposes.


Looking at the aviation in India very few will be aware that is it is more than 100 years old; this historic milestone was achieved on December 10, 2012. The moment was memorialize by dedicating calendars and cards depicting Indian aviation history.


Beginning of civil aviation in India- Airfields to Aerodromes


The civil aviation in India experienced a sluggish start as India was under British rule therefore the Indian flying corps commanded by British soldier of Indian army carrying their biplanes were occupied with the war in Suez canal area 1914.It was not until 20s India experienced a momentum. The first flying clubs was set up a decade after in Delhi, Bombay, Allahabad, Calcutta and Karachi. Tata played a major role in creating Indian civil Aviation environment. The air race of 1930 instilled youth with a desire to take aviation as a profession further in October 1932 “Royal Indian Air Force” was set up. With the augment of world war, many airports flourished in north, east and north-eastern parts of India solely for military purpose. The emergence of Civil Aviation wasn’t noticed until India achieved its independence due to this airfield start coming under control of civil aviation department, which later was converted to

DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation).


Expansion of Aviation

 All the war torn airfields began to come under civil aviation department. The development of existed infrastructure were further enhanced by the AAI (Airport Authority of India) which took huge strides in expansion and growth in India civil aviation sector. DGCA remained sole custodian of all the aviation activities in India until 70’s.Various difficulties arose as the airfield inherited were in not in condition to be operated for civil flights buildings. But with consistent and prolong effort AAI produced some marvelous .India now operate with most sophisticated aids to ensure safe air traffic in airspace of India. Major technological breakthrough have been made during the course from ground based to satellite based communication, navigation surveillance system (GAGAN). India is the fourth country to achieve this remarkable feat.

India figures as a 10th emerging market in Aviation industry all over the world and slowly escalating to top five.


100 Years Achievements – A milestone…..


  • On 18 February, 1911 the first commercial civil aviation flight took place in India between Allahabad andNaini, a distance of 6 miles when Henri Piquet carried 6500 mails on a Humber biplane. This is considered to be the world’s first airmail service and the beginning of civil aviation in
  • In December 1912, the Indian State AirServices in collaboration withUK based Imperial Airways introduced   the London -Karachi – Delhi flight, the first International flight to and from India.
  • In 1915,TataSons Ltd. started regular airmail services between Karachi and Madras and on January 24, 1920 Royal Air force started regular airmail services between Karachi and Bombay.
  • Construction of Civil Airports inIndiastarted in  Constructions began in Calcutta at Dum Dum, Allahabad at Bamrauli and in Bombay in Gilbert Hill.
  • April 1927 saw the setting up of a separate Department of Civil Aviation to look after all civil aviation matters. That year also saw the establishmentof Aero Club of India.
  • In February 1929, JRD Tatawas awarded the first pilot license by FederationAeronautique International on behalf of the Aero Club of India and Burma.  The same year Aga Khan announced a solo air race between London and Bombay.    There were three participants – JRD Tata, Man Mohan Singh and Aspy   Man Mohan Singh won the race.
  • Col.Shelmerdinewas appointed first Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in 1931 to look after civil aviation regulatory issues.
  • In 1932,TataAirlines came to being as a division of Tata Sons Limited.  It started Air Mail services on the Karachi, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Bellary, Madras routes on 15 October. The same year, 1932 also saw the first Indian woman, Urmila  Parikh get a pilot’s license.
  • Between1933 and 1934 a number of Indian airlines – Indian Trans Continental Airways, Madras Air Taxi Services, Indian National Airways etc., commenced operations.
  • The Indian Aircraft Act was promulgated in 1934 and was formulated in 1937.
  • Hindustan AeronauticsLimited (HAL) set up byWalchand Hirachand in association with the then Mysore Government in 1940 at Bangalore.
  • India’s first aircraft, theHarlowtrainer was rolled out for test flight in July 1941.
  • In 1945,the Deccan Airways was founded – jointly owned by theNizam of Hyderabad and Tatas. Its first flight began in July 1946.  In 1946, ‘Air India’ came into being when Tata Airlines changed its name to Air
  • In 1948, AirIndiasigned an agreement with the Government to operate international services under the name Air India International Ltd.  On June 8, the same year Air India inaugurated   its international services with a weekly flight between Bombay and London via Cairo and Geneva.
  • In 1948,PremMathur became the first woman commercial pilot and started flying for Deccan   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 afternationalizationof the entire airline industry.  At this time eight formerly independent domestic airlines:Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga Air Lines, Indian National Airways, Air India, Air Services of India were merged.
  • 1953 also saw the introductionof India’s  Civil Helicopter Services
  • In 1956, Ms.DurbaBanerjee was inducted as the first woman pilot of Indian Airlines. 
  • In1960, India entered the jet age with the introduction of Boeing 707-437 into the fleet of AirIndia and USA was connected to India for the first time by an Indian airline flight. 
  • In 1972the International Airports Authority of India (IAAI) was constituted andVayudoot 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 138thman 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 GandhiRashtriya Uran Academy (IGRUA) in Fursatganj, Rai Bareli in Uttar Pradesh for training of pilot
  • 1985 was also a very traumatic year for Indian aviation when terrorists blew up Air India flight AI 182 between Montreal and Delhi 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.
  • 1990-91 saw the entry of private airlines 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  over1,11,000  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.1998 also saw the first Private Airport come 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.
  • 2003 saw the ushering in the entire Low Cost Carriers’ in the country when   Air Deccan started its services.
  • In 2004, Government approved setting up of private airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore.
  • 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.
  • 2005 saw the rebranding of Indian Airlines 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.
  • 2007 saw the Regional Airlines Policy being  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 is the ninth 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.


Reference: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/efeatures.aspx?relid=69345