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.
1933: In its first year of operation. Tata Airlines flies 160,000 miles, carries 155 passengers and 10.71 tonnes of mail. In the next few years, Tata Airlines continues to rely for its revenue on the mail contract with the Government of India for carriage of surcharged mail, including a considerable quantity of overseas mail brought to Karachi by Imperial Airways.
Tata Airlines launches its longest domestic flight: Mumbai to Trivandrum with a six-seater Miles Merlin.
1945: India’s second domestic airline, Deccan Airways, is founded Seventy-one per cent is owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad, 29 per cent by Tata Sons. Deccan Airways is the first of a bunch of new airlines to serve domestically in India. It flies in the Hyderabad region, using a fleet of 12 Douglas DC-3s. The first services began in July 1946.
1946: Tata Airlines changes its name to Air India. In 1947, Air India signs an agreement with the government of India to operate international services under a new company called Air India International Ltd. Established as a joint sector company with a capital of Rs 2 crore and a fleet of three Lockheed constellation aircraft. The new name is inaugurated on March 8, 1948. Three months later on June 8, Air India International inaugurated its international services with a weekly flight from Bomabay to London via Cairo and Geneva. The airline is nationalized in 1953.
1951: Prem Mathur becomes the first woman commercial pilot. She flies planes owned by Deccan Airways.
1953: Indian Airlines and Air India International are set up after legislation comes into force to nationalize the entire airline industry in India. Eight former independent domestic airlines; Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga Air Lines, Indian National Airways, Air India, Air Services of India, are merged to from the domestic national carrier. Air India International takes over the international routes. Indian Airlines Corporation inherits a large fleet of 74 DC-3 Dakotas, 12 Vikings, 3 DC-4s and various smaller craft.
1956: Durba Banerjee is inducted as the first woman pilot of Indian Airlines.
1960: India enters the jet age when Air India begins operating its first Boeing 707-437. It also marks the year in which USA is first connected to India by an Indian airliner.
1984: Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma, a 35-year-old Indian Air Force pilot becomes the first Indian cosmonaut and the 138th man in space, when he spends eight days in space abroad Salyut 7.
1985: Captain Saudamini Deshmukh commands the first all-women crew flight on an Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship F-27 on the Calcutta-Silchar route. She also commands the first Boeing all-women crew flight on September 1989 on the Mumbai-Goa sector.
1989: Indian Airlines becomes one of the earliest airline in the world to induct the revolutionary fly-by-wire A320s made by France’s Airbus Industrie into its fleet. The airline’s first pure-jet was a Caravelle, inducted in 1964.
1990: East West Airlines becomes the first national level private airline to operate in the country after 37 years, after the government decided to end Indian Airlines’ monopoly over domestic civil aviation.
Capt Nivedita Bhasin of Indian Airlines at 26 becomes the youngest pilot in civil aviation history to command a jet aircraft when she pilots IC-492 on the Bombay-Aurangabad-Udaipur sector on January 1. Bhasin also becomes the country’s first woman check-pilot on an Airbus A300 aircraft.
Air India is commended in the Guinnes Book of World Records for the largest evacuation effort by a civil, when it flew over 111,000 people from Amman to Mumbai in 59 days, operating 488 flights just before the first Gulf War.
1992: The Indian Air Force (IAF) decided to recruit women pilots. It advertises for eight vacancies and receives 20,000 applications. The first pilots enter service in July 1994.
1997: A group of army aviation professionals gets together to set up Deccan Aviation, which will soon grow to become India’s largest privately owned helicopter charter company.
1998: Dr Kalpana Chawla becomes the first Indian-born woman to fly to space, as part of a NASA team.
1999: Flying Officer Gunjan Saxena, who was among the first women pilots in the IAF, becomes the first woman to fly in a Combat Zone when she takes part in air operations during the Kargil war.
2003: Air Deccan, India’s first ever budget airline begins operations on 25th August. The first flight is from Bangalore to Mangalore.
2004: On August 26, Air Deccan turns into the first truly national budget carrier with the launch of its A320 flights on the Delhi – Bangalore route.