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The Maharajah
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here were two domestic airlines before the Second World War. After the War, the Government of India issued licences for eleven airlines! Most of them were equipped with Dakota planes of the Second World War. The indiscriminate licensing system resulted in wasteful competition, increase in costs and reduced revenues for all.

The Airport Transport Enquiry Committee was instituted in 1950 and recommended to the Government that there should be only four operators and that some of the airlines should be merged. The Government did not accept this recommendation and instead, nationalised the airlines as from August 1, 1953. It was a wrench for Tatas to part with their airline (by now called) Air-India.

On the last day of July 1953, J.R.D. Tata wrote a message for 'The Story of an Airline 1932-1953,' a souvenir for all Air India employees. The souvenir also included a touching Farewell written by S. K. Kooka, the airline official who conceived of the 'Maharajah' – the renowned symbol of Air-India. The message of J.R.D. Tata and the Farewell (of the Maharajah) by S. K. Kooka, illustrated by Umesh Rao, are reproduced.

After nationalisation, J.R.D. Tata was invited by the Union Government to head Air-India International – and the Maharajah returned to the flight deck.

 

'My thoughts turn to happier days ...'

 

Message to the employees of Air-India in the Souvenir 'The Story of an Airline 1932-1953.'

 

As this last day of July marks the passing of an enterprise born twenty-one years ago, my thoughts turn to happier days gone by, and in particular to an exciting October dawn, when a Puss Moth and I soared joyfully from Karachi with our first precious load of mail on our inaugural flight to Bombay. As we hummed along towards our destination at a dazzling hundred miles an hour, I breathed a silent prayer for the success of our venture and for the safety of those who would work for it. Perhaps I did not pray hard enough, for in the years that followed, death was to claim many of them, some, unfortunately, in accidents connected with our operations. We were a small team in those days, I knew them all personally and each that went took with him a little of me.

My thoughts turn to Nevill Vintcent, that gallant and immensely able man, who conceived the project and managed it with zest and efficiency, until he was shot down over the Atlantic ten years later on a dangerous flight back to India. I think of Homi Bharucha who, besides Vintcent and myself as part-time pilot, constituted the whole of the original pilot strength of Tata Airlines. I think of N.G. Gadgil who took his 'B' licence with me in England; of my brother Jamshed who lost his life while training to become one of our pilots. I think of other fine men who are no more, and I grieve.

But, more happily, my thoughts also turn to friends who are still with us. Towards them all and others, I have a deep sense of comradeship. We shared the successes and failures, the joys and heartaches of those early days, as together, we built up the enterprise, which later was to blossom into Air-India and Air-India International. I thank them for their loyal support, which I shall ever remember.

By 1937, small as we still were, we had made good progress and could plan our future with confidence. We bought larger planes and opened a conversion training school to provide pilots for our expanding operations. By 1939, we felt ready for bigger things, for multi-engined airliners, for daily frequencies and for far-flung routes. As our horizons broadened, our eyes turned to distant lands where we hoped to spread our wings one day.

Then came the War and with it came restrictions and difficulties, but also experience and opportunities. The Government at first commandeered part of our fleet, but later loaned us modern twin-engined planes, with which we developed our existing routes and established new ones. We built up our organisation, and, as we waited for peace, we dreamed and planned for a bright and expanding future, little knowing that the stars were soon to turn against us.

In the anguish and frustration which the post-War era brought us, the only relieving note was the fulfilment of our long cherished desire to expand overseas. Into the task of creating Air-India International, we put all we had in experience, energy and loving care. If we had achieved nothing else these twenty-one years, I for one would not be dissatisfied.

And now the time has come to say goodbye. As we turn the last page and put away the book, regret or bitterness has no place in our hearts. Instead, we may find content in the thought that what we did was worth doing, that we set our standards high and would not lower them, that we never need part with our memories.

 

J.R.D. TATA

CHAIRMAN

Air-India Limited

July 31, 1953 

Air-India International Limited

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