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Dakota DC-3 (Picture Courtesy: Twitter/@IAF_MCC)

Vintage aircraft of the Indian Air Force, Dakota DC-3 reached India on April 25 at Air Force Station Jamnagar. The aircraft was gifted by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Rajeev Chandrashekhar to the IAF. The Dakota DC-3 joined the vintage air fleet of the force. The induction ceremony is scheduled on 04 May 18 at Air Force Station Hindan, to honour the old warhorse.

The vintage fleet was raised in Palam in 1988. Dakota were inducted in No 12 Sqadron of the IAF in 1946. The aircraft rendered invaluable service during 1947 Kashmir Operation. The aircraft rendered yeoman service towards evacuation of thousands of displaced refugees from Srinagar and Leh.

On 24 May 1948, the then Wing Commander Mehar Singh was the first to land The Dakota at a height of 11,550 feet in Leh, flying an unchartered route at 25,000 feet, having very little experience of high altitude landing during that period. Air Commodore Mehar Singh created a record of sorts by landing a Dakota with three tons of load against the maximum load of one ton specified by the manufacturer. Within the next six days, the IAF operated 73 sorties using Dakotas and 210 tons of supplies were brought into the beleaguered town of Poonch.

A large fleet of Dakota DC-3 served in the IAF till 1988. It was one of the most versatile transport aircraft of its time. The first Dakota aircraft transferred the 1st Sikh Regiment to Srinagar during the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan in 1947 just after India’s independence. It is World War II-era aircraft, which was built in 1944. It also served in the United Kingdom’s (UK) Royal Air Force.

The particular aircraft is recovered from the scarp from the UK by Chandrashekhar and gifted it to the IAF. The Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B.S Dhanoa had ceremonially accepted the aircraft into the IAF from Rajeev Chandrasekhar in February this year. His father air commodore M K Chandrasekhar (Retired) was a veteran Dakota pilot in the IAF. It will bear the tail number VP 905, the same one which the first such Dakota which transported troops to Srinagar on October 27, 1947.

More on Dakota:

The Dakota DC-3 (Douglas Commercial 3) is a fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft with tail wheel-type landing gear. It was the workhorse of most of the airlines and certainly the most widely used aircraft. It brought together all the technical innovations of the DC-1 and the DC-2. Its cruise speed (207 mph or 333 km/h) and range (1,500 mi or 2,400 km) revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s.

This aircraft made its first flight on 17 December 1935, it had a wider fuselage, larger wings and a small tail area. It was fast, had a good range and could operate from short runways. It was reliable, easy to maintain and carried passengers in greater comfort.

In 1951 Hindustn Aeronatical Limited (HAL) updated surplus WW II Dakotas, to raise a new Squadron. The aircraft were fitted with new engine, and were called the “Hyper” Dakotas. These aircraft were successfully used in the 1962 Chinese aggression and during 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, and during “Operation Tangail” – Bangladesh campaign in 1971. The aircraft undertook the crucial Para-Drop, in support of the Indian Army.

These aircraft have been used for VIP transport, training of pilots, navigators, target towing, survey, photo reconnaissance, air maintenance, logistic support, flood relief and many more roles.

 

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