Tag Archive for 'JRD Tata'

Karachi to Bombay to Calcutta: The struggle to start Air-India

J.R.D.Tata’s aviator’s certificate issued by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, British Empire bearing “No.1” dated February 10, 1929, by The Royal Aero Club, The Aero Club of India and Burma, and the Associated Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.: Image: Tata Central Archives

David Shaftel at Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine:

Like many things in India, civil aviation was subservient to the monsoon. Since the rains, which begin mid-June, have typically abated by early September, the subcontinent’s first regularly scheduled airmail service was to have been inaugurated on September 15, 1932. But that year, the rain and lashing wind persisted, making the Juhu airfield, Bombay’s first airport, a quagmire. In those days, the field was little more than a dried mud flat on the Indian Ocean coast, north of what was then the city center, and in what is now the hub of India’s famous film industry, Bollywood. It took another month before the airfield dried out enough to permit the first flight of the new service, a venture that would grow into Air-India, the national carrier.

That it started at all was due to the persistence and vision of a tycoon and adventurer named J.R.D. Tata. In 1932, the 28-year-old industrialist cut a dashing figure. With his tidy mustache, trim frame, and pomaded hair, he looked like Errol Flynn. Finally, in October, after three years of lobbying the British colonial government, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, known to millions of Indians today as J.R.D., boarded a second-hand Puss Moth at Drigh Road airport in Karachi (in what is now Pakistan) for the flight to Bombay. Equipped with only a pair of goggles and the slide rule he used for navigating, J.R.D. took off with 120 pounds of mail. He stopped as planned in Ahmedabad, the halfway point in the 600-mile journey. “I was fuelled by Burmah Shell out of 2 gallon tins brought to the airfield in a bullock-cart,” J.R.D. remembered, according to materials in the Tata archives. “My only thought was to be on my way as quickly as possible so as to reach Juhu on schedule…and I managed to take off after 20 minutes in Ahmedabad after a lemonade and a brief talk to the press.”

The flight to Bombay (today, Mumbai) was “bumpy and hot” but otherwise uneventful, except for what an internal Tata Group review of the founding of the airline describes as the “killing of a bird which flew into the cabin of his machine.” More:

Scientist, citizen, artist

Nehru, Bhabha, JRD Tata and K. Chandrasekharan at TIFR, 1962. Photo: Penguin

In The Indian Express, C. Raja Mohan reviews a book on Homi J. Bhabha (A Masterful Spirit: Homi J. Bhabha; Penguin) by Indira Chowdhury & Ananya Dasgupta:

Homi Jehangir Bhabha was unquestionably one of the most refined modernists of 20th century India. As the architect of independent India’s science and technology institutions, Bhabha’s legacy will endure .

He is often cited and always praised. And his name is invoked with reverence, not necessarily for the right reasons. Recall how Bhabha’s three-stage programme for India’s nuclear energy development was made the ultimate criterion for judging some of the terms of the controversial civilian nuclear deal with the United States. As an authentic internationalist and cosmopolitan, Bhabha might have been shocked by the provincialism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism of his successors at the Department of Atomic Energy.

As a man committed to scientific temper, he might have been saddened by the uncritical chanting of his three-stage formula, without any reference to the changed conditions and improved knowledge of reactor physics. More:

Ratan Tata, India’s humble business king

From the Sunday Times:

Ratan Tata; Right: Ratan Tata with JRD Tata

Ratan Tata; Right: Ratan Tata with JRD Tata

Ratan Tata is tired but has a smile on his face. The head of the Indian business empire that bears his family name has spent part of the day at Jaguar Land Rover’s test track in the Midlands driving top-secret new models.

He obviously likes what he has seen. Since Tata bought it last year, Jaguar has dusted off plans for a sports car – “The E-type was iconic, so we have resurrected it,” says Ratan – and accelerated development of fuel-efficient hybrids.

New models are the key to Tata’s plan for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which employs 15,000 people and was for years a financial millstone round the neck of its former owner, Ford. More:

[Photos: Wiki]