Modi Sarkar Readies to Fly Back Piece of History to India
After being stalled by UPA diffidence, IAF to soon add to vintage fleet Douglas DC3 ‘Dakota’ restored by businessman Rajeev Chandrasekhar
sekhar, whose father was a Dakota pilot in IAF, and has been meticulously restored by him in the UK. It now wears the old IAF colours. The Dakota has played a key role in India’s military history, ferrying the troops that helped to push back Pakistani invaders in Kashmir just after Independence in 1947. That means the arrival of the plane will be nicely timed for the 70th anniversary of Independence next year. IAF’s vintage fleet includes a de Havilland Tiger Moth and an HT-291.
Chandrasekhar said the restora- tion work began in 2010 but he couldn’t interest the UPA government in taking the plane.
“They said that there are no rules to take it as a gift. I was doing what I thought was something good. The Dakota in a lot of ways is symbolic of our Independence,” Chandrasekhar said.
But he received a better response after writing to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with the same offer. “This time I don’t think I needed to convince anyone. Anyone with a sense of history and commitment to the armed forces would see it. The moment I wrote a letter to Parrikar, he was very positive on it,” he said.
UPA regime refused to accept the aircraft saying there were no rules to take it as a gift
Flohr said the regulator can speed up things by hiring a few more people because such delays hurt India’s image when it’s aiming to draw overseas investment.
“Aviation is a 24/7 business. How can the regulator not work on weekends?” Flohr said. “The Indian government is trying to improve its ranking in ease of doing business in India. The government can improve it further by hiring five to 10 people who can work on weekends.”
The solution may not be that simple though. DGCA didn’t respond to queries but an official who didn’t want to be named said such permission wasn’t just up to the regulator. Apart from emergencies, such applications need to be cleared by the home ministry and other government departments.
Indian business jet operators echo the concerns raised by Flohr. International flight plans filed by them also get stuck because of weekends and holidays.
“Every Indian business aircraft flying international has to take approvals from the DGCA. These approvals are delayed, as the DGCA does not work on weekends,” said RK Bali, secretary at the Business Aircraft Operators Association, which represents 130 business aircraft operators registered in the country.
To be sure, DGCA officials try to be as accommodative as they can. A business aircraft operator said that flight plans have at times been sent for approval to their homes.
“They take pride in saying that they are helpful and sign on approvals even when they are off on weekends. But this problem can be sorted completely by hiring people to work on weekends, which they won't,” said the person, who didn’t want to be named.
In the US, once an operator has been approved by the aviation authorities, it doesn’t have to seek permission every time one of its planes uses the country’s airspace.
“Why cannot India copy systems prevalent in the US? I do not need a permit to fly to the US because we are approved by them,” said Flohr, whose company has a fleet of 61 aircraft, five of them dedicated to the Indian market.
The situation in China was similar to India until five years ago, but that country has now fixed the problem, he said. “Somewhat it’s the same for India. Once these norms are relaxed, it will immensely benefit the country.” Bali also said that the situation is not in sync with the requirements of aviation.
FLYING HIGH: The DC3 was acquired as scrap in Ireland by Chandrasekhar