When the first Air India flight took to the skies, 83 years ago

When the first Air India flight took to the skies, 83 years ago

October 15, 1924, a date that made aviation history. It was on this day, that the first-ever flight of the Tata Airlines, which went on to become India's flagship carrier Air India commenced.

The aircraft, a single-engined De Havilland Puss Moth was piloted by J.R.D. Tata and carried air mail from Karachi's Drigh Road Aerodrome to Mumbai's Juhu Airstrip via Ahmedabad. It continued to Madras (now Chennai) via Bellary piloted by South African aviator Nevill Vintcent.

An Air India aircraft prepares to land at the international airport in Mumbai on May 25, 2010. Pic/AFP
An Air India aircraft prepares to land at the international airport in Mumbai on May 25, 2010. Pic/AFP

On its inception, Tata Airlines consisted of two planes, namely one Puss Moth aircraft, one Leopard Moth, one whole time pilot assisted by Tata and Vintcent, one part-time engineer and two apprentice-mech. Initial service included weekly airmail service with a Puss Moth aircraft between Karachi and Madras (now Chennai) via Ahmedabad and Bombay (now Mumbai) covering over 1,300 miles.

The ticket window of Air India displaying its logo the 'Maharaja' at the domestic airport in Mumbai on April 28, 2011. Pic/AFP
The ticket window of Air India displaying its logo the 'Maharaja' at the domestic airport in Mumbai on April 28, 2011. Pic/AFP

Tata Airlines flew 160,000 miles, carrying 155 passengers and 10.71 ton of mail in its very first year of operation and launched its longest domestic flight – Bombay to Trivandrum with a six-seater Miles Merlin monoplane the same year. it was re-christened as Tata Air Services and renamed Tata Airlines in 1938.

Tata Airlines became a public limited company on 29 July 1946 under the name Air India post World War II when regular commercial service was restored in India.

The Air India fleet currently consists of 108 aircraft in service. The airline took the delivery of its first Boeing 747-400, registered VT-ESM and named Konark on 4 August 1993. first Boeing 777-200LR aircraft was delivered on 26 July 2007, which was named after Andhra Pradesh and its first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on 9 October, the same year named after the state of Bihar. Air India received its first Boeing 787 dreamliner aircraft on 6 September 2012 and commenced flights on 19 September 2012. The plane is capable of carrying 256 passengers and crew members.

In 1989, Indian Airlines introduced the Airbus A320-200 aircraft, which Air India now uses to operate both domestic and international short haul flights and the smaller, A319 in 2005, which are now used mainly on domestic and regional routes.

A picture taken on November 6, 2006 shows Air India air hostesses wearing their new uniform posing for photographers during the delivery of a Boeing 737-800 Commercial Jetliner for Air India in New Delhi. Pic/AFP
A picture taken on November 6, 2006 shows Air India air hostesses wearing their new uniform posing for photographers during the delivery of a Boeing 737-800 Commercial Jetliner for Air India in New Delhi. Pic/AFP

After the merger in 2007, Air India inducted the biggest member of the A320 family, the A321, to operate mainly on international short haul and medium haul routes and leased the Airbus A330s to operate on medium-long haul international routes. As of February 2013, Air India operates 62 A320 family aircraft.

Air India announced an order for 68 jets on 11 January 2006 – 8 Boeing 777-200LR Worldliners, 15 Boeing 777-300ER,18 Boeing 737-800 and 27 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. The 18 737s ordered were later transferred to Air India Express. Air India has taken the delivery of 20 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners so far. All remaining dreamliners are expected to be delivered by 2016.

Did you know?
>> Noted Indian scientist, Homi J. Bhabha lost his life when Air India Flight 101 a Boeing 707-420 (name Kanchenjunga) carrying 117 people (106 passengers and 11 crew) crashed on Mont Blanc, France, on the border between France and Italy, killing all on board. The incident occured on 24 January 1966.

Homi J. Bhabha
Homi J. Bhabha

>> Besides the aforementioned plane crash there have been 4 more crashes where all passengers and crew member have all lost their lives...

- 27 December 1947: Air India DC-3 flight carrying 23 people (19 passengers and 4 crew) and en route from Karachi to Bombay, lost control after take-off from Karachi International Airport due to an instrument failure and crashed, killing all on board. This was the airline's first fatal accident.

- 3 November 1950: Air India Flight 245 a Lockheed L-749 Constellation aircraft named Malabar Princess' carrying 48 people (40 passengers and 8 crew) flying on the Bombay-Cairo-Geneva-London route, crashed on Mont Blanc, France.

- 13 December 1950: Air India DC-3 flight carrying 21 people (17 passengers and 4 crew) and en route from Bombay to Coimbatore, crashed into high ground near Kotagiri due to a navigational error.

- 1 January 1978: Air India Flight 855 a Boeing 747-237B named Emperor Ashoka crashed into the Arabian Sea after takeoff from Sahar International Airport (now Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport) in Mumbai, killing 213 persons; 190 passengers, 23 crew.

- 23 June 1985: Air India Flight 182 a Boeing 747-237B named Emperor Kanishka was blown up in mid-air, mid-flight by a suitcase-bomb planted by Babbar Khalsa Terrorists allegedly as revenge for the Indian Government's operation on the Golden Temple on June 1984. The flight was on the first leg on its Montreal-London-Delhi-Bombay flight when it exploded off the coast of Cork, Ireland and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing all 307 passengers and 22 crew on board. This led to Air India suspending all services in Montreal.

>> There has been one indicent of hijacking, which occured on 25 December 1974, when a 31-year-old male passenger hijacked Air India Flight 105, a Boeing 747-237B, en route between Beirut (BEY), Lebanon and Roma-Fiumicino Airport (FCO), Italy. The crew was able to subdue the hijacker, who was handed over to Italian police officers after landing.

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