Brief History of Indian Airlines
India's chiefly domestic state-owned carrier, Indian Airlines Ltd., flies passengers and cargo to 59 domestic and 16 international destinations. Its fleet numbered 52 aircraft in 2000. Indian Airlines has traditionally based its network around the four main hubs of Delhi, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Calcutta, and Chennai (formerly Madras). The airline carries about six million passengers a year and has a substantial freight operation. Origins
The Air Corporations Act of 1953 amalgamated India's dozen or so airlines, most of them undercapitalized, into two nationalized air carriers: Air-India Ltd., given responsibility for international routes, and Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC), the domestic airline. The eight airlines that were amalgamated into IAC included Air Services of India Ltd., Airways (India) Ltd., Bharat Airways Ltd., Deccan Airways Ltd. (already 70 percent government-owned), Himalayan Aviation Ltd., Indian National Airways Ltd., Kalinga Airlines, Ltd., plus the domestic operations of Air-India Ltd. IAC began operations with a fleet of 74 of the war surplus Douglas DC-3s that had founded its short-lived predecessors. The airline also had three times as many employees as it needed, writes R.E.G. Davies, a situation that was slow to change due to the government's refusal to allow layoffs. Davies also writes that the standard of maintenance was low and the airline suffered many accidents in its early years. IAC soon moved to bolster its fleet by ordering a few new de Havilland 114 Herons, retired after only a couple of years of service, and Vickers Viscount 768s, which were assigned to trunk routes. The DC-3s continued to supply feeder traffic; they soon began to be phased out by Fokker F-27s and Avro 748s. IAC began flying short-haul jets--French-made Caravelles--in the mid-1960s. The Caravelles were so popular that IAC soon needed larger jets to on the routes between Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Calcutta, and Madras (Chennai) that formed the India's domestic trunk network. IAC's first Boeing 737s entered service in 1971. Between 1962 and 1972, IAC was called upon to support the military in several campaigns, first in skirmishes with China, and later with the wars with Pakistan that ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh. Confidence and Crisis in the 1970s and 1980s
IAC announced a Rs45 million loss for 1972. The next year, the company had several incidents of aircraft damage or loss. Labor unrest, high fuel costs, political burdens, and built-in inefficiencies added to the company's problems. However, these were met with such resolve that IAC had the confidence to order its first wide-body jets, Airbus A300s, in 1975. A program to produce ground support equipment in Indian factories was part of the deal. In 1976, new routes stretched across political divisions to Kabul, Afghanistan, in the northwest, and the Maldive Islands in the south. The government allowed the formation of a few new limited service airlines in the 1970s: Air Works India, Huns Air, and Goldensun Aviation. None of them had long life spans. Around 1979, IAC dropped the word "Corporation" from its name. Another national airline, Vayudoot, was formed in 1981 and tasked with carrying feeder traffic from India's smaller communities. Indian Airlines' managing director, Gerry Pais, was Vayudoot's part-time chairman. Vayudoot was serving more than 100 destinations within India by 1990. The government also set up a helicopter corporation to serve off-shore oil fields. Britain's Financial Times described Indian Airlines as the world's third largest domestic carrier in the mid-1980s. With business growing at better than ten percent a year, it was increasing its capacity. Indian Airlines ordered a dozen of the new Boeing 757s in August 1984. After Rajiv Gandhi, a former Indian Airlines pilot, became prime minister, this order was changed to Airbus A320s due to what were perceived as political reasons. However, the crash...
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