100 Years Of Civil Aviation In India – Milestones – Maushumi Chakravarty



  • On 18 February, 1911 the first commercial civil aviation flight took place in India between Allahabad and Naini, a distance of 6 miles when Henri Piquet  carried 6500 mails on a Humber biplane.  This is considered to be the world’s first airmail service and the beginning of civil aviation in India.
  • In December 1912, the Indian State Air Services  in collaboration with UK based Imperial Airways  introduced   the London -Karachi - Delhi  flight,  the first International flight to and from  India.
  • In 1915 Tata Sons Ltd. started regular air mail services between Karachi and Madras and on January 24, 1920 Royal Airforce started regular airmail services between Karachi andBombay.
  • Construction of Civil Airports in India started  in 1924. Constructions began in Calcutta atDum Dum, Allahabad at Bamrauli and in Bombay in Gilbert Hill.
  • April 1927 saw the setting up of a separate Department of Civil Aviation to look after all civil aviation matters.  That year also saw the establishment of  Aero Club of India.
  • In February 1929,  JRD Tata was awarded the first pilot license by FederationAeronautique International on behalf of the Aero Club of India and Burma.  The same year Aga Khan announced a solo air race between London and Bombay.    There werethree  participants - JRD Tata, Man Mohan Singh and Aspy Merchant .  The race was won by Man Mohan Singh.
  • Lt.Col. Shelmerdine was appointed first Director general of Civil Aviation(DGCA)  in 1931 to look after civil aviation regulatory issues.
  • In 1932 Tata Airlines came to being as a division of Tata Sons Limited.  It started Air Mail services on the Karachi, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Bellary, Madras routes on 15 October. The same year, 1932 also saw the first Indian woman, Urmila K. Parikh  get a pilot’s license.
  • Between 1933 and 1934 a number of Indian airlines – Indian Trans Continental Airways, Madras Air Taxi Services, Indian National Airways etc., commenced operations.
  • The Indian Aircraft Act was promulgated in 1934 and was formulated in 1937.
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL) set up by Walchand Hirachand in association with the then Mysore Government in 1940 at Bangalore.
  • India’s first aircraft, the Harlow trainer was rolled out for test flight in July 1941.
  • In 1945 the  Deccan Airways was founded – jointly owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad andTatas.   Its first flight began  in July 1946.  In 1946 ‘Air India’ came into being when  TataAirlines changed its name to Air India.
  • In 1948 Air India signed an agreement with the Government  to operate international services under the name Air India International Ltd.  On June 8 the same year Air India inaugurated   its international services with a weekly flight between Bombay  and Londonvia Cairo and Geneva.
  • In 1948 Prem Mathur became the first woman commercial pilot and started flying forDeccan Airways.  She obtained her commercial pilot’s license in 1947.
  • In March 1953 the Indian Parliament passed the Air Corporations Act, and Indian Airlines and Air India International were set up after nationalisation of the entire airline industry. At this time eight formerly independent domestic airlines: Deccan Airways, Airways India,Bharat Airways, Himalyan Aviation, Kalinga Air Lines, Indian National Airways, Air India, Air Services of India were merged.
  • 1953 also saw the introduction of  India’s  Civil Helicopter Services.
  • In 1956 Ms. Durba Banerjee was  inducted as the first woman pilot of Indian Airlines.
  • In 1960  India entered  the jet age with the introduction of Boeing 707-437 into the fleet of Air India and USA was connected to India for the first time by an Indian airline flight.
  • In 1972 the  International Airports Authority of India (IAAI) was constituted  and Vayudoot  airlines (a government owned airline company) started  operation in the year 1981.
  • In 1984  Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma of Indian Air Force becomes the first Indian cosmonaut and the 138th man in  space spending 8  days in space abroad Salyut 7.
  • In  1985  Captain Saudamini Deshmukh commanded the first all women crew flight on an Indian Airlines Fokker friendship F-27 on the Calcutta-Silchar route. She also commanded the first Boeing all-women crew flight on September 1989 on the Mumbai-Goa sector.
  • 1985 also saw the establishment of Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited(PHHL)  and the establishment of  Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy (IGRUA) in Fursatganj, RaiBareli in Uttar Pradesh for training of pilots.
  • 1985 was also a very traumatic year for Indian aviation when Air India flight AI 182 between Montreal and Delhi was blown up by terrorists over the Atlantic Ocean.  Following this, the  Bureau of Civil Aviation Security was established in 1987.
  • The National Airports Authority was constituted in 1986.
  • In 1989  Indian Airlines became one of the earliest airline of the world to induct A320s type of aircraft from the Airbus company.
  • 1990-91 saw the entry of private airlines after the de-regulation of the civil aviation sector. Private airlines were given permission to operate charter and non-scheduled services under the ‘Air Taxi’ Scheme.  The East West Airlines was  the first national level private airline to operate in the country after almost 37 years.
  • In 1990 Captain Nivedita Bhasin of Indian Airlines  at 26 became the youngest pilot in civil aviation history to command a jet aircraft. She also  became the first woman check pilot on an Airbus A300 aircraft.
  • 1990 was also a land-mark year for Indian civil aviation and Air India when  Air India entered  the Guinness Book of World Records for largest evacuation effort by a single civilian airline when it flew  over1,11,000  people from Amman to Mumbai in 59 days operating 488 flights just before the Gulf war began.
  • In 1994, following the repeal of the Air Corporation Act private airlines were permitted to operate scheduled services  and a number of private players including Jet Airways, Air Sahara, Modiluft, Damania Airways, NEPC Airlines and East West Airlines commenced domestic operations.
  • In 1995 India’s six private airlines accounted for more than 10% of domestic traffic.  Many foreign airlines started providing international services.  In 1995, 42 airlines operated air services to, from, and through India.
  • In 1995 Airport Authority of India (AAI) was  constituted after the merging of the International Airport Authority of India with National Airports Authority.
  • In 1998 Dr. Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-born woman to fly to space as part of a NASA team.  1998 also saw the first  Private Airport come up in the country in  Cochin,Kerala.
  • 1999 was another tragic year in the history of Indian civil aviation when the IC 814 flight of Indian Airlines was hijacked to Kandahar.
  • 2003 saw the ushering in all the ‘Low Cost Carriers’ in the country when   Air Deccanstarted its services.
  • In 2004 Government approved setting up of private airports at Hyderabad and Banglore.
  • In the December of 2004 Indian Scheduled carriers with a minimum of 5 years of continuous operations and a minimum fleet size  of 20 aircraft, were permitted to operate scheduled services to international destinations.
  • 2005 saw the rebranding of Indian Airlines as Indian.  It also saw the entry of the Kingfisher Airlines.  This year the Government designated Air India, Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Air Sahara  to operate international services.
  • In 2006 the Government approved the restructuring and modernization of  Mumbai andDelhi Airport through Public Private Partnership.
  • 2007 saw the Regional Airlines  Policy  being  announced wherein licenses were given for operation of  airlines within a particular region.
  • In 2008  the path breaking  Greenfield Airports Policy  of the Government was announced.
  • To regulate the economic aspects of airports, the Parliament passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority(AERA)  Bill and the AERA was set up in 2009.
  • The brand new integrated terminal T-3 was inaugurated in New Delhi’s Indira GandhiInternational Airport in July 2010 and in December 2010 Pawan Hans started its Sea Plane Services Jal  Hans.
  • At present India is the 9th largest aviation market in the world with 82 operational airports, 735 aircraft, 12 operational scheduled airlines and 121 non-scheduled operators.  The number of air passengers travelling in India is expected to cross 50 million this year. (PIB Features)

*Director(M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.

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10 Comments

  1. archna agrawal says:

    very resourceful material all under one topic v wil take lead frm all th infrmtn fr our nxt prgrm.

  2. darshan r naik says:

    very good source of information

  3. Capt R Mukerjee says:

    Capt.(Ms) Durba Banerjee breathed her last on 05 Apr’2011 at 1900 hrs in Kolkata. Her name and stature should make people to sit up and take notice of the same as a mark of respect to the iron willed lady – who shunned publicity but rose to the pinnacle of her career.

  4. Ed Wolf says:

    A couple of items need correction. For 1912 I know Indians are forward but this is too much. Imperial Airways was not formed until 1923 so could not have performed the service.The Karachi-Delhi service was opened up in December 1929.
    Your 1915 Tata reference is 17 years ahead of itself as you record yourself later.
    I thank you for putting th rest of the history in context.

  5. siddhartha mukherji says:

    Dear Capt. Mukerjee. I knew Capt. Durba Banerjee personally. I was around 4 years old. My father, Shri Sital Mukherji,was posted at the Bamrauli airport at Allahabad those days. Durba-mashi [as we called her] stayed with us for some time while she was undergoing her flight training. That was long long back. I am 61 years old now. Still carry fond memories of her.

  6. Dorab N Gazder says:

    You have forgotten to give coverage to MISTRY airlines ,
    a pionner in his own right as the Tatas

  7. Sagarika says:

    I was really convinced by the information given!

  8. Dr. Gautam says:

    very useful information. thanks to teem.

  9. Dr. Gautam says:

    very useful information . my thanks to your teem.

  10. ray khuller says:

    Good article, but it ignored such pioneering airlines as Airways (India) Ltd, Kalings Airlines and Bharat Airways that operated out of Dum Dum, Calcutta between 1946 and 1953.
    Also, the jet age came to India with Indian Airlines’s purchase and operation of Sud-Aviation Caravelle aircraft. Boeing 737s came along in 1966.

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