Goggles, Aviator’s Certificate, ‘Silent’ Prayer: When JRD Tata Piloted First Air India Flight

Goggles, Aviator's Certificate, 'Silent' Prayer: When JRD Tata Piloted First Air India Flight

New Delhi: Many would not know that there is a connection between India’s first pilot’s licence and the first flight of Air India. The event dates back to 1929.

On February 10, 1929, JRD Tata had earned the first commercial aviator’s certificate in India.

JRD Tata had fallen in love with flying at the age of 15 — as he nurtured the dream, his endeavours took India to the skies with him 13 years later.

Tata Group, in a post on Instagram, recalled that when JRD Tata set up India’s first airline called ‘Tata Air Service’, he also piloted its inaugural flight on October 15, 1932. ‘Tata Air Service’ is what later became ‘Air India’.

“On an exciting October dawn in 1932, he soared into the sky from Karachi in a Puss Moth, flying towards Bombay at what was then a “dazzling 100 miles an hour”,” the post read.

“All he was armed with was a pair of goggles, his trusted slide rule that he always carried on flights, “a silent prayer”, and his little blue and gold aviator’s certificate that bore the Number 1,” it added.

In an older post, the Tata Group had mentioned that in 1962, JRD ‘Jeh’ Tata recreated that first flight from Karachi to Bombay to commemorate its 30th anniversary. In 1982, at the age of 78, he again took to the skies in a De Havilland Leopard Moth to celebrate its golden jubilee.

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How ‘Tata Air Service’ Became ‘Air India’

In a recent post, Tata Group had shared how ‘Tata Air Service’ became ‘Air India’.

Back in 1946, when Tata Air Lines expanded from a division of Tata Sons into a company, a new name had to be chosen. 

“The choice for India’s first airline company came down to Indian Airlines, Pan-Indian Airlines, Trans-Indian Airlines & Air India,” Tata Group stated.

Tata Group shared two pictures, including an excerpt from the Tata Monthly Bulletin of 1946. 

According to the bulletin, Tatas were faced with the problem of finding a name for the new Air Line Company which they were forming to take over and extend the activities of Tata Airlines which had hitherto functioned as a department of Tata Sons Limited.

The bulletin stated that “To the innately democratic mind of the Head of the Tata organisation, it seemed a good idea to let the selection be made by popular opinion in Bombay House through a sort of Gallup Poll or Sample Opinion Survey”.

Voting papers were distributed to ascertain the views of representative sections of opinion among Tata employees and they were requested to indicate their first and second preferences.

“The first count revealed 64 votes for Air-India, 51 for Indian Air Lines, 28 for Trans-Indian Air Lines and 19 for Pan-Indian Air Lines. When the less favoured names had been eliminated, the final count showed 72 votes for Air India and 58 for Indian Air Lines. Thus, the name of the new company comes to be ‘AIR-INDIA’,” the bulletin informed.

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So, more than 75 years ago, an opinion poll among Tata employees to choose from four names resulted in the country’s first airline company being named ‘Air India’.

On January 27, Tatas took over control of Air India, it’s subsidiary Air India Express as well as a 50 per cent stake in joint venture AISATS.

Following a competitive bidding process, the Union government sold loss-making Air India to Talace Pvt. Ltd, the company set up by the Tata Group, for Rs 18,000 crore. As part of the deal, Talace paid Rs 2,700 crore in cash and took over Rs 15,300 crore debt of the airline.

The remaining debt and borrowings of Air India were transferred to AIAHL.

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