Overview The history of civil aviation in India began in December 1912. This was with the opening of the first domestic air route between Karachi and Delhi by the Indian state Air services in collaboration with the imperial Airways, UK, though it was a mere extension of London-Karachi flight of the latter airline. Three years later, the first Indian airline, Tata Sons Ltd., started a regular airmail service between Karachi and Madras without any patronage from the government. At the time of independence, the number of air transport companies, which were operating within and beyond the frontiers of the company, carrying both air cargo and passengers, was nine. It was reduced to eight, with Orient Airways shifting to Pakistan. These airlines were: Tata Airlines, Indian National Airways, Air service of India, Deccan Airways, Ambica Airways, Bharat Airways and Mistry Airways. In early 1948, a joint sector company, Air India International Ltd., was established by the Government of India and Air India (earlier Tata Airline) with a capital of Rs 2 crore and a fleet of three Lockheed constellation aircraft. Its first flight took off on June 8, 1948 on the Mumbai (Bombay)-London air route. At the time of its nationalization in 1953, it was operating four weekly services between MumbaiLondon and two weekly services between Mumbai and Nairobi. The joint venture was headed by J.R.D. Tata, a visionary who had founded the first India airline in 1932 and had himself piloted its inaugural flight. Significance of Air Transport Air transport is the most modern, the quickest and the latest addition to the modes of transport. Because of speed with which aeroplanes can fly, travel by air is becoming increasingly popular. As far as the world trade is concerned it is still dominated by sea
transport because air transport is very expensive and is also unsuitable for carrying heavy, bulky goods. However, transportation of high value light goods and perishable goods is increasingly being done by air transport. Nationalization of Airlines The soaring prices of aviation fuel, mounting salary bills and disproportionately large fleets took a heavy toll of the then airlines. The financial health of companies declined despite liberal Government patronage, particularly from 1949, and an upward trend in air cargo and passenger traffic. The trend, however, was not in keeping with the expectations of these airlines which had gone on an expansion spree during the postWorld War II period, acquiring aircraft ad spares. The Government set up the Air Traffic Enquiry Committee in 1950 to look into the problems of the airline. Though the Committee found no justification for nationalization of airlines, it favored their voluntary merger. Such a merger, however, was not welcomed by the airlines. Foreign Airlines Foreign airlines carrying international passenger traffic to and from India existed long before Independence. Their operations are governed by bilateral agreements signed from time to time between the Government of India and the governments of respective countries. In 1980-81, the number of such airlines was 35. It rose to 49 in 1996-97. The share of foreign airlines in India's scheduled international traffic has increased. In 1971, their share was 55.58 per cent which went up to 65 per cent and declined to 58 per cent during 1972-75. It fell to 55.72 per cent in 1976 and further to 55.02 per cent in 1977. Between 1978 and 1990 it gradually increased and rose to 75.93 per cent. In 1996, the share was nearly 72 per cent. Open-Sky Policy The Open-sky policy came in April 1990. The policy allowed air taxi- operators to operate flights from any airport, both on a charter and a non charter basis and to decide their own flight schedules, cargo and passenger fares. The operators were, however, required to use aircraft with a minimum of 15 seats and conform to the prescribed rules. In 1990, the private air taxi-operators carried 15,000...
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