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Monday, 5 March 2012

56) Celebrating 100 years of Civil Aviation in India


56) Celebrating 100 years of Civil Aviation in India

On 18th February 1911, a small flight of about 10 km (6 miles), from Allahabad to Naini (in the then United Provinces – present day State of Uttar Pradesh) across the river Yamuna at a close distance from the “Sangam” or “Confluence” of three rivers, the Ganges, the Yamuna and the Saraswati), heralded the dawn of the World’s first airmail and the beginning of civil aviation in India.

The Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department have commemorated this memorable event by taking out a postage miniature sheet of stamps, tracing the flight-path of this historic flight which is given below:


The scene on the three rivers at the point depicted in the miniature sheet given above still looks very much the same and the “Sangam” is a sacred place for the Hindus where the last rites of persons who have passed away are performed even today. In the foreground is the Fort of Allahabad. 

This flight was undertaken by Monsignor Henri Piquet, a French Pilot who carried a cargo of about 6000 letters and postcards, several of them addressed to celebrities and important dignitaries world-wide, including the reigning King George V in England. Notice that one of the letters on the right side of the miniature sheet is marked to J.Nehru Esq. to an address in London (Independent India’s first Prime Minister whose family had been residing in Allahabad for a few generations). 

 All postage covers and stamps were marked “First Aerial Post” and were primarily meant as souvenirs or keepsakes. (Anyone possessing any of these rare postmarked postage covers or postcards/stamps is today the proud owner of a memento which marks the historic event, which is worth quite a lot for collectors). 

The miniature sheet shows a picture and a sketch of the Humber Somer Biplane in which the flight was performed. The flight although lasting a total flight-time of 27 minutes, opened up the entire Indian sub-continent for civil aviation opportunities growing from strength to strength achieving one milestone after another. Civil Aviation in India has come a long way since then and completed 100 years of flying. The centenary year which commenced on 18th February 2011 has ended on 12th February 2012. 

To mark the commencement of the Centenary year celebrations, buildings and installations associated with Civil Aviation were all decorated and wore a festive look. Also part of the Indian Government’s efforts through the Ministry of Civil Aviation was to have Advertisement Campaigns in Print and Electronic media, Air Shows, Establishment of an Air and Space Theme Park or Museum, Release of Postage Stamps and Commemorative coins, as well as a Coffee Table Book to mark the commemorative year celebrations. 

(I haven’t seen much activity in this direction, throughout the Commemorative year except for issue of the Postage Stamp on the First Air-mail Flight (miniature Sheet given above) and the five rupee coin released recently) (:-)
 
Today India is the ninth largest civil aviation market/nation in the World and if the present crises regarding the losses reported by several major Airlines is resolved through a determined effort on the part of all concerned, has the potential to grow into the top three largest markets in the World by the end of this decade.

Commemorative coins:

1) Uncirculated Coin set in the denominations of Rs.100/- and Rs.5/-:

Mumbai mint has issued Commemorative Proof and Uncirculated two-coin sets to commemorate the centenary of Civil Aviation in India.

(The following two-coins uncirculated set is from the collection of Jayant Biswas who has contributed these scans for this post):


An image of the cover of this coin album.
 


Reverse of the two coin set showing an aircraft landing/taking off on/from an Air-Strip.This face of the coin shows the image of the Aircraft and the numeral “100” with the words “Years” in the centre on a rectangular strip flanked by the words “Bhartiya Naagar Vimanan Shatabdi Varsh” on the upper periphery and “Civil Aviation” followed by India” below the figure “100”. The centenary years “1911-2011” is engraved at the bottom.


This coin has been minted at Mumbai Mint. Notice the diamond mint mark below the centenary years “1911-2011” on this face of the coin which is a Mumbai mint mark.


 The obverse of the coin has the Lion Capital in the centre together with the words “Satyameva Jayate “(Truth always Prevails) which together form the emblem/Coat of Arms of India. The numeral “5” denoting the denomination of the coin is below the emblem together with the rupee symbol. On the left periphery is the word “Bharat” in Hindi and on the right periphery is the word “India” in English. Notice that since the “rupee symbol” has been placed on this coin, the words “Rupiye” in Hindi and “Rupees” in English have not been placed on this face of the coin as in earlier issues. 

The specifications for these coins are:

100 Rupees :
Shape: Circular;Diameter: 44 mm; Weight: 35.00 gms;No. of serrations: 200; Composition : Quaternary Alloy (Silver:50%, Copper : 40%;Nickel:5%;Zinc:5%)
5 Rupees: 

Shape: Circular; Diameter: 23 mm; Weight: 6.00 gms;No. of serrations: 100; Composition: (Copper: 75%;, Zinc :20%; Nickel: 5%)


2) Coins issued for general circulation:

The Reserve Bank of India in December 2011 during the year-long celebrations of the glorious heritage of Civil Aviation in India, has issued a five rupee coin for general circulation to celebrate 100 years of Civil Aviation in India (Centenary Year).



Obverse image of the coin issued for general circulation. The obverse of the coin has the Lion Capital in the centre together with the words “Satyameva Jayate “(Truth always Prevails) which together form the emblem/Coat of Arms of India. The numeral “5” denoting the denomination of the coin is below the emblem together with the rupee symbol. On the left periphery is the word “Bharat” in Hindi and on the right periphery is the word “India” in English. Notice that since the “rupee symbol” has been placed on this coin, the words “Rupiye” in Hindi and “Rupees” in English have not been placed on this face of the coin as in earlier issues. 
The coin is Circular in shape, and has an outer diameter of 23 mm; its metal composition is Nickel-Brass (75% Copper, 20% Zinc and 5% Nickel) and 100 serrations. 
(The scanned image of this coin has been provided for this post by Kavish Hukmani, (the young Numismatist whose five shillings "crown" coin, I have written about in my previous post) from his coin collection.  A coin has also been given for my collection by Krishna Tonpe).


Reverse image of the above coin. This face of the coin shows an image an Aircraft and the numeral “100” with the words “Years” in the centre on a rectangular strip flanked by the words “Bhartiya Naagar Vimanan Shatabdi Varsh” on the upper periphery and “Civil Aviation” followed by India” below the figure “100”. The centenary years “1911-2011” is engraved at the bottom.
This coin has been minted at Mumbai Mint. Notice the diamond mint mark below the centenary years “1911-2011” on this face of the coin which is a Mumbai mint mark.

C

Civil Aviation development in India
Fact File:
-          After the first airmail flight between Allahabad and Naini in February 1911, the first International Flight was introduced to and from India in 1912, by the Indian State Air Services, in collaboration with the UK based Imperial Airways, with a London – Karachi – Delhi flight.

-          In 1915, Tata Sons Ltd. started an Air Mail service between Karachi and Madras (present day Chennai).
-          On 24th January 1920, the Royal Air Force (RAF) started a regular airmail service between Karachi and Bombay (present day Mumbai).

-          In 1924, Civil Airports were set up at Dumdum, Calcutta (present day Kolkata), Bamrauli, Allahabad and Gilbert Hill, Bombay (present day Mumbai).

-          The Department of Civil Aviation and the Aero Club of India were set up in 1927.

-          In February 1929, JRD Tata was awarded the first pilot licence by the Federation Aeronautique International on behalf of the Aero Club of India and Burma.
-          In 1932, Tata Sons Limited introduced Tata Airlines with Air Mail services to Ahmedabad, Bombay (present day Mumbai), Bellary, Karachi and Madras (present day Chennai). Urmila K.Parikh was the first Indian woman to get a pilot’s licence in this year.

-          Three more Airlines commenced operations between 1933 and 1934 viz., Indian Trans Continental Airways, Madras Air Taxi Services, and Indian National Airways.

-          In 1934, the Indian Aircraft Act was promulgated and formulated in 1937.

-          In 1940, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was set up by Walchand Hirachand in association with the Mysore Government at Bangalore. (Incidentally, my wife Sumita and I have both headed State Bank of India Branches at Korwa (Amethi – Uttar Pradesh) and Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) at various points of time, respectively, during our careers with State Bank of India). India’s first aircraft, the Harlow trainer was test flown in July 1941.

-          In 1945, the Deccan Airways was founded jointly owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad and Tatas.

In 1946, Tata Airlines metamorphosed into Air India. In 1948, Air India commenced International Operations under the name of Air India International.

-          In 1948, Prem Mathur became the first woman commercial pilot flying for Deccan Airways, having obtained her Commercial Pilot’s licence a year earlier.
-          In 1953, the Air Corporations Act was passed and Indian Airlines and Air India International were nationalised along with 8 other domestic Airlines. The Indian Civil Helicopter Services were also introduced.

-    In 1960, Boeing Jets were introduced into Air India.
-          
     In 1972, the International Airports Authority of India (IAAI) was set up.

-    In 1985 Saudamini Deshmukh commanded the first all women crew flight on an Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship F-27 on the Calcutta-Silchar route and also the first Boeing all-women crew flight in September 1989 on the Mumbai-Goa route.

- In 1990, after de-regulation of the civil Aviation sector, private airlines were given permission to operate charter and non-scheduled services. The East-West Airlines became the first national level private Airlines to operate in India after almost 37 years.
-          Also, in 1990, Air India entered the Guinness Book of World Records, for the largest ever evacuation operations by a single civilian Airlines, rescuing over 1,11,000 people from Amman to Mumbai, just before the Gulf war began.

-          In 1994, the Air Corporations Act was repealed and several private Airlines including Air Sahara, Modiluft, Jet Airways, Damania Airways, NEPC Airlines etc. started operations alongwith East-West Airlines.
-          In 1995, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was constituted.
-          In 2003, low cost carriers came in with Deccan Airways in the forefront.

-          In 2004, Indian Scheduled Carriers were permitted to fly internationally upon fulfilling certain requisite criteria.
-          In 2005, Indian Airlines was renamed as “Indian”. Kingfisher Airlines (now going through a financial turmoil) was also introduced.

-     Modernisation of Hyderabad and Bangalore Airports was approved in 2004 and Mumbai and Delhi Airports in 2006.

-     In 2007 the “Regional Airlines Policy was introduced and the Greenfields Airports Policy in 2008.

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-          Present Day – India is the 9th largest aviation market in the World and has over 80 Operational Airports with 12 Operational Scheduled Airlines and 121 non-scheduled Operators carrying nearly 50 million passengers domestically and globally. Estimates suggest that domestic air traffic will touch 160-180 million passengers a year in the next ten years and International traffic will exceed 80 million passengers a year.



-          Indian Aviation 2012, being organised at Hyderabad in mid-March 2012 by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in association with FICCI is now into its 3rd edition.



-          The dichotomy of Indian civil aviation foray is that it is serving one of the World’s fastest growing economies and is taking massive strides in traffic growth, yet it is estimated that Indian carriers will lose $3.00 billion (approx) by end-March 2012.



-          The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s move for allowing FDI is a step to benefit cash-strapped domestic airlines but it remains to be seen whether foreign direct investment /international carriers will pump in enough resources to keep the Indian aviation industry, already under severe financial strain, airborne.




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