Civil aviation pilots want government to commemorate J.R.D. Tata’s first commercial flight on October 15, 1932, as National Aviation Day

Published : January 27, 2022 14:53 IST

October 15, 1932, Juhu, Bombay: J.R.D. Tata with the mail bag ferried from Karachi on the De Havilland Puss Moth that he piloted. The flight continued onward to Madras piloted by Nevill Vincent, a former RAF pilot and a friend of Tata. Photo: The Hindu Archives

On October 15, 1932, J.R.D. Tata piloted a De Havilland Puss Moth from Karachi’s Drigh Road Aerodrome to land at a mud flat at Juhu in Bombay with a load of mail, heralding the dawn of airmail services in India. This year will see the 90th anniversary of that pioneering flight.

Three bodies representing pilots and aircraft owners, including the Federation of Indian Pilots, has petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting that the anniversary of Jehangir R.D Tata’s first flight be declared as India’s ‘National Aviation Day’. Tata, the pioneer of civil aviation in India, undertook India’s, first commercial flight on October 15, 1932, when he piloted a single engine De Havilland Puss Moth from Karachi’s Drigh Road Aerodrome to land at a mud flat at Juhu in Bombay with a load of mail, heralding the dawn of airmail services in India. This year will see the 90th anniversary of that pioneering flight.

The Sport, Amateur and Recreational Aviation Society (the Indian chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of India and the Federation of Indian Pilots have sent separate letters to the Prime Minister highlighting the need for India to start celebrating not just its rich aviation heritage but also its own National Aviation Day. The three aviation bodies also want the next major airport that would be commissioned to be named after Tata.

Writing on behalf of the Federation of Indian Pilots, Capt. Surinder Mehta, its president, said: "India too has a rich aviation heritage of which we the people are justifiably proud, and now it is time that India too starts celebrating our own National Aviation Day. The late Bharat Ratna [Honorary] Air Vice Marshal JRD Tata is considered the father of civil aviation in India as it was his first flight on October 15th, 1932, which heralded the dawn of airmail services in our country. It would be only appropriate that October 15th be declared as the National Aviation Day of India. Also, it would be more appropriate if you declare it this year as we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of his [Tata’s] flight in 2022."

Capt Sabu Sivaraman, Secretary, Sport Amateur and Recreational Association (SARAS), in his petition to the Prime Minister wrote: "Tata, instead of being in the boardroom and monitoring the progress of his airline venture led from the front by not only undertaking the inaugural flight himself but also pioneering many other routes. By doing so he joined the ranks of other aviation giants like Juan Trippe, Robert Forman Six, Charles Lindbergh, Edward Rickenbacker and Howard Hughes."

The aviation bodies have sought to bolster their case by drawing a parallel with the United States, where since 1939 August 19, the birthday of Orville Wright, the first person to accomplish powered flight, is celebrated as National Aviation Day.

The Federation of Indian Pilots, and the other two aviation bodies have drawn attention to the fact that world over it is a common practice to name airports after famous aviators and aviation pioneers. The Federation of Indian Pilots’ petition mentioned a long list of airports so named, among them the Otto Lilienthal Airport in Berlin-Tegel, Germany, which is named after gliding pioneer Otto Lilienthal; the Wilbur Wright Field, in Dayton, U.S., named after Wilbur Wright; and the Santos Dumont Airport, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, named after aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of India in its petition, signed by the association president Neville Bharucha, mentioned 54 airports and airfields that have been named after famous aviators and aviation pioneers.