As the Tata Group returns to the Air India cockpit, here’s a look at the airline’s long journey.

Tata Sons, through a wholly-owned Talace Pvt Ltd, has won the bid to acquire the national airline Air India, the Aviation Ministry and DIPAM Secretary said on Friday at a briefing by cabinet. The airline was finally brought back into its fold after attempts by successive governments to privatize the bleeding national carrier for more than two decades.

While Air India’s return will be a glorious time for the 153-year-old conglomerate, it remains to be seen how it will chart the future of its airline business given the aviation industry has been crippled by the COVID pandemic. -19 has yet to recover from the fatal blows.

Air India’s journey over the years

At fifteen, JRD Tata in France had decided to become a pilot and make a career in aviation. A decade later, when the Aero Club of India handed him his license to fly, number 1 was written on it, indicating that he was the first Indian to qualify to become a pilot.

The first known commercial civil aviation flight in India took place on February 18, 1911 when Henri Piquet flew a Humber biplane from a polo field in Allahabad to carry mail across the Yamuna to Naini.

After the Wright brothers invented the airplane in 1903, over the next decade and a half, India took small steps in developing aviation-related infrastructure. This included the start of the first air route between London, Karachi and Delhi in 1912 by Imperial Airways (now British Airways). Construction of civilian airports in Calcutta, Allahabad and Bombay took place in 1924, and the establishment of the Department of Civil Aviation took place in 1927.

In 1929, JRD Tata was approached by Nevill Vintcent, a retired Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot, with a proposal to launch air services between Karachi and Bombay.

Over the next two years, the Tatas tried to persuade the British government to subsidize the nascent aviation industry. They asked for help of only Rs. 75,000 for the first two years. But the government refused. When the Tatas decided to donate free air service to the government, the proposal was immediately accepted.

No airline in the world operated without government support. But the Tatas were prepared to accept the financial risk associated with the new venture. Tata Airlines was established in April 1932.

The history of Indian commercial civil aviation began at 6.30 a.m. on October 15, 1932 when JRD Tata took off from his first official Tata Airlines flight from Drigh Road airfield in Karachi. He landed earlier than expected on the Bombay airstrip in Juhu at 1:50 p.m.

Despite the infrastructure challenges, Tata Airlines’ performance has been remarkable. He completed his first year of service with 100% punctuality, even during the harsh monsoon months when the perilous Western Ghats made these trips dangerous. Tata Airlines continued to perform remarkably well. After five years, his profits had increased from Rs.66,000 to Rs. 6 lakh, and he had maintained on-time performance at 99.4%.

In 1938, Bobby Kooka, among the company’s first employees, designed the iconic “Maharaja” (monarch) as the brand identity of Tata Airlines. In 1946, Tata Airlines, until then a division of Tata Sons, went public as a joint stock company called Air India Ltd.

What happened after independence?

In 1953, the Congressional government led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru passed the Air Corporations Act. As a result, all existing airlines, including Air India and Air India International, were nationalized. Air India and Indian Airlines were incorporated as independent public sector companies providing international and domestic services respectively.

Nationalization has been hotly debated since independence. JRD Tata opposed it on several platforms but was not invited by the government to present its views. The Minister of Communication, Jagjivan Ram, who supervised the modalities of the nationalization, did consult JRD Tata but it was to discuss the compensation to be granted to the nationalized companies. JRD Tata was discouraged.

During a luncheon with Prime Minister Nehru in November 1952, JRD Tata expressed his anguish that the government had intentionally treated the Tatas mean and that this was a planned plot to suppress aviation. private civil. JRD Tata expressed disappointment at the government’s decision to take such an important step without any consultation with the Tatas, pioneers of Indian civil aviation.

JRD Tata stressed his belief that nationalization would not translate into an efficient and autonomous air transport system. He said: “Unless the utmost attention continues to be paid to the high standards of training and discipline among flight and ground crew, the resulting deterioration could destroy the good reputation of civil aviation. Indian.

(With contributions from the agency)

About Erick Miles

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