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JRD claimed to have caught the flying bug as a schoolboy while living in France; understandable, really, with Louis Bleriot—the first man to fly across the English Channel—as a hero & neighbour.


In 1929, JRD renounced his French citizenship & set up home in Bombay; 12 days after the launch of the country's first flying club, JRD became the first Indian to bag a flying licence; he flew solo on February 10, 1929, after just 3.5 hours in the air with an instructor.

Those airlines carried mail as well as passengers, with the mail bound for India being unloaded at Karachi. From there it would be moved across India by rail — a process that would take several days.


Vintcent (STANDING ON THE LEFT OF JRD) was a World War 1 pilot with the Royal Air Force and an aviation evangelist. Having seen the British Imperial Airways, Air France and KLM launch flights through Asia, to destinations like Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia, Vintcent saw an opportunity in India.

Vintcent, with his experience of flying mail before, came up with the idea of an air mail service that would pick up the international mail in Karachi and deliver it to destinations in India within 24 hours.

Vintcent got to know that Imperial Airways was planning a service from Karachi to Kolkata, but went ahead with his idea, as that would still miss half the Indian airspace. So he floated an idea for a flight from Karachi to Mumbai and Colombo.

Vintcent took his idea to industrialist Sir Homi Mehta, who rejected the proposal but asked him to visit the Tatas. The then chairman of the Tatas, Sir Dorabji Tata was apprehensive but a certain 24-year-old nephew, who was an aviation enthusiast himself pursuaded the company to fund Vintcent's idea. With an investment of Rs 2 lakh, Tata Air mail was born, with Vintcent being the chief pilot.

Two single-engined Puss Moth aircrafts with an average speed of 80km/hour were bought. They carried a consignment of mail, and sometimes passengers. The passengers would have no assigned seats though, having to sit on top of the mail bags.

The pilot would navigate by following the railway lines below. If there was confusion with the routes, the pilot carried a slide-rule in his pocket.



In 1932, JRD set up Tata Aviation Service—India’s first commercial carrier to transport mail & passengers domestically—with an investment of Rs 2 lakh from Tata Sons; he started out with just 2 second-hand single-engined Puss Moths aircrafts, 3 pilots & 3 mechanics


JRD made history again a few months later when he decided to pilot his company’s—and India’s—inaugural flight from Karachi to Juhu, Mumbai, via Ahmedabad; Neville Vintcent, his business partner, took over at the Juhu Airstrip & flew the aircraft on to Madras.


Because that’s where airmail from Europe to India got unloaded from international airlines & then sent on by train, which took a long time; Tata Air Services aimed to deliver the mail within 24 hours

In 1933, the first full year of operations, Tata Air Services flew 2,57,495 km, carried 155 passengers (who travelled sitting on top of the mail bags!) & 10.71 tonnes of mail, & made a profit of Rs 60,000; by 1937, the profit had increased to Rs 600,000.

In 1938, the company was rechristened Tata Airlines; & it went public in July 1946 when regular commercial service resumed post World War II & thus Air India Ltd was born.

Without Tata Airlines, we wouldn't have today's Air India, and without Nevill Vintcent, we may never have had Tata Airlines.




From the website...

1910: The first Indian, or maybe even Asian, to have an airplane is the young Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, who has a keen interest in aviation. Singh sends his Chief Engineer to Eurpoe for a study with orders to buy three planes, including a Bleriot monoplane and Farman biplanes, which arrive in the Punjab later that year.

1911: Domestic commercial aviation is born in India when on February 18, Henri Piquet, flying a Humber biplane, carries mail from Allahabad to Naini Junction, some six miles away.

1927: The world’s first officially christened national airline’s, Britain’s Imperial Airways extends to Empire Routes to India, connecting India with the outside world for the first time through an air network. A de Havilland Hercules flies the Cairo-Basra-Karachi-Jodhpur-Delhi route. It is also the first domestic passenger flight to be operated in India. Passengers could be for the first time fly from Karachi to Jodhpur and to Delhi on Imperial Airways.

1929: Athe Aga Khan offers through the Royal Aero Club, a special prize of GBP500 for “a solo flight completed within six weeks from the date of starting. The prize will remain open for one year from January 1930. There were three contestants: an eager JRD Tata, Man Mohan Singh, a civil engineer graduating from Bristol who had learnt to fly in England, and Aspy Merwan Engineer (later the Chief of the Indian Air Force). The three men set out flying single-engine, light aeroplanes with simple instruments and without radio. Man Mohan Singh took off from Croydon airport, south of London, in a Gypsy Moth which he called Miss India; Aspy Engineer followed the same route while JRD Tata, also in a Gypsy Moth, started his journey in the reverse direction. After Croydon, Man Mohan Singh flew on to Lympne, Le Bourget (Paris), Dijon, Marseillers, Rome, Naples, Catania, Tripoli and Sirle. From Gaza, he flew eastwards to India, with Engineer trailing a day behind. Singh finally landed at Drigh Road, Karachi on 12 May 1930, winning the historic air race. Engineer landed the next day and, though he came second, due to a technicality, was eventually declared the winner, which Singh accepted.

On February 10, JRD Tata is awarded India’s first pilot’s licence, Pilot Licence No.1 by Federation. Aeronautique International signed by Sir Victor Sasoon on behalf of the Aero Club of India and Burma.

1932: Urmila K Parikh becomes the first woman to get a pilot’s licence when she is given an licence by the Aero Club of India and Burma.

1932: JRD Tata launches India’s first scheduled airline, Tata Airlines, by piloting the first flight himself from Karachi to Mumbai via Ahmedabad on a single-engine. Puss Moth with a load of airmail. Nevill Vintcent, a former Royal Air Force pilot and JRD’s collegue, flies the plane to Chennai via Bellary thus completing the flight.

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