Vintage Dakota's historic landing: all set for airshow

Those imposing flying machines carried troops of the Sikh Regiment's first battalion. But beyond this first transport role, the Dakota transformed into a fearsome bomber aircraft, thanks to the efforts of an officer: Air Commodore Mehar Singh. 

Flying into the heart of the first Indo-Pak conflict in 1947, the Dakota was among India's first aircraft in the battle zone. Decommissioned but resurrected in 2011, the old warbird is now all set to rekindle nostalgia with an emphatic display at the Aero India 2019, starting here on February 20. 

Rechristened 'Parashurama', the aircraft recorded its maiden landing at the Air Force Station Ojhar on Friday. For old timers, one look at it brought back glorious memories of the first three Dakotas of the No 12 Squadron taking off in tandem from Srinagar's Safdarjung Airfield on October 27, 1947.  

Those imposing flying machines carried troops of the Sikh Regiment's first battalion. But beyond this first transport role, the Dakota transformed into a fearsome bomber aircraft, thanks to the efforts of an officer: Air Commodore Mehar Singh. 

He had already created aviation history in May 1948. Leh had posed a formidable challenge, offering nothing beyond a 2,300 yards airstrip built in April 1948. To land a Dakota on that airstrip, the risks were enormous.

Braving the odds, the Air Commodore flew a Dakota with no deicing facilities, no pressurization and no route maps. On May 30, 1948, he landed the aircraft in Leh on a sandy stripe next to the Indus River at the height of 11,540 feet.

Under his watch, the Dakotas morphed into Bombers, their cargo bays modified to carry bombs. Cargo handlers were trained to roll out the bombs out of the doors onto the target below. The saga of air operations over the world’s most inhospitable terrain had just begun. 

Resurrected in 2011

To revive its glorious history, the decommissioned aircraft was resurrected in 2011 and restored to flying condition in the United Kingdom. On February 13, 2018, the Chief of Air Staff had ceremonially accepted the aircraft into the Indian Air Force (IAF) from Rajya Sabha member, Rajiv Chandrasekhar, whose father Air Commodore MK Chandrasekhar (Retd) was a Dakota pilot in the IAF.

Chief Test Pilot, Gp Capt Ajay Menon, one of a select few who can fly the Dakota, took the aircraft to Air Force Station Ojhar on Friday. 

The Dakota, originally called Douglas DC – 3, was inducted into IAF in 1944.  The fixed wing, propeller-driven, twin engine, aircraft capable of landing on short runways, had a lasting effect on the aviation industry. World War II cemented its place as one of the most significant transport aircraft ever produced.  

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Vintage Dakota's historic landing: all set for airshow

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