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Ministry of Civil Aviation declines aviation bodies’ request to name the next major airport after J.R.D. Tata

Published : May 11, 2022 12:31 IST T+T-
In this photograph dated October 15, 1962, J.R.D. Tata stands in front the Leopard Moth aircraft in which he made his 30th anniversary commemorative flight from Karachi to Bombay.

In this photograph dated October 15, 1962, J.R.D. Tata stands in front the Leopard Moth aircraft in which he made his 30th anniversary commemorative flight from Karachi to Bombay.

The efforts of three bodies representing pilots and aircraft owners, including the 6,000-strong Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP), to name the next major airport to be commissioned in India after aviation pioneer Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata have come to naught.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has conveniently passed the buck back to the petitioners, expressing helplessness and obliquely hinting that they should approach the State government.

In a letter addressed to Captain Surinder Mehta, president of FIP, the Ministry has pointed out that as per “standard practice, airports are known by the name of the city where they are located, unless another specific name is proposed by the respective State government supported by a resolution passed in the State legislative assembly, which is then sent to Union Cabinet for final approval”.

The letter, dated May 9 and signed by Joyanta Chakraborty, a Director in the Ministry, further notes that “no such proposal for renaming of an airport after J.R.D. Tata has been received from any of the State governments in the country”.

Expressing surprise at the turn of events, a senior pilot told Frontline that archaic laws were preventing an “icon like J.R.D. Tata from being honoured”.

The FIP and two other aviation bodies had drawn attention to the fact that it was a common practice the world over to name airports after famous aviators and aviation pioneers. Their petition attached a long list of airports thus named: the Otto Lilienthal Airport in Berlin-Tegel, Germany, which is named after the first person to make successful flight with gliders; the Wilbur Wright Field, in Dayton, United States; and the Santos Dumont Airport, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In their letter, they had also requested that the anniversary of J.R.D. Tata’s first flight be declared as India’s ‘National Aviation Day’.

J.R.D. 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 aviation bodies had sought to bolster their case by drawing a parallel with the U.S., where August 19, the birthday of Orville Wright, the first person to accomplish powered flight, is celebrated as National Aviation Day since 1939.

Captain Sabu Sivaraman, Secretary, Sport Amateur and Recreational Association, disclosed that the memory of J.R.D. Tata would be honoured in July when he is inducted in the ‘Memorial Wall’ of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, U.S.

The only other Indian to be inducted on the ‘Memorial Wall’ is the late Kalpana Chawla, the Indian-origin astronaut who perished in the Columbia disaster.