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Dakota, AKA Parashurama, Flies To Glory Again

Written By Snehesh Alex Philip | Mumbai | Published:

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  • October 8 marks the 86th anniversary of the Indian Air Force and, the IAF did a scintillating air display at the Air Force Station Hindan in Ghaziabad, which saw multiple fighters including the Tejas in action.
  • However, the star of this year's celebrations was the Dakota DC3 aircraft that made its maiden appearance in the Fly Past

Today is a proud moment not just for the Indian Air Force but also for every single citizen of India as the force celebrated its 86th anniversary. And what is a better way to celebrate Air Force Day than an awe-inspiring aerial display. And true to its capability, the IAF did a scintillating air display at the Air Force Station Hindan in Ghaziabad, which saw multiple fighters including the Tejas in action. 

However, the star of this year's celebrations was the Dakota DC3 aircraft that made its maiden appearance in the Fly Past. The Indian military aircraft, which played a vital role in the 1947-48 India-Pakistan war and other wars, was restored to its original glory, made in flying condition by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

READ: After Over 30 Years, Dakota Aircraft That Was Instrumental In Saving Kashmir For India Will Again Fly In Indian Air Force Colours

The aircraft, which was restored following a six years process, was inducted into the Vintage Aircraft Flight of the Indian Air Force in May this year. This aircraft was gifted to the nation by Chandrasekhar and was named Parashurama by him. An aviation enthusiast, he is the son of an Air Commodore M K Chandrasekhar (Retd), who has flown the Dakota Journey of Dakota to India

"I am delighted to see the Dakota participating in its maiden fly past. The Dakota is an important part of Air Force’s history - and J&K history. If it was not for the Dakotas and the troops it airlifted in 1947 - Srinagar would not be with India today.

The restoration took over 6 years and cost me a lot of money. But I was motivated mainly for my father and many others who served and the need to remind the country of the bravery of IAF and Army in 1947 which kept young independent India together with J&K," he said.

READ: 86th Air Force Day: From Parade Marches To Fly-past, Here's How India Is Commemorating Air Force Day. LIVE UPDATES

On February 13, 2018, Chandrasekhar gifted the Dakota bearing the Tail Number VP 905 and called “Parashurama” in a signing ceremony to the Indian Air Force to be added to its Vintage Fleet. The aircraft commenced its journey from the UK on April 17 to India with and flew a total of 9,750 km during its ferry en-route halts in France, Italy, Greece, Jordan, Bahrain and Oman and landed on Indian soil on April 25. 

Dakota DC3 VP 905 Parashurama was formally inducted into the IAF Vintage Flight on May 4 in a grand ceremony at Air Force Station Hindan where Air Cmde M K Chandrasekhar handed over a symbolic key to the Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal B S Dhanoa.

History

The Dakota, popularly known as the Gooney Bird, was the first major transport aircraft inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF). Remembered by IAF pilot veterans as one of the finest and most forgiving aircraft in the world, the DC 3 Dakota airplane has played a sterling role in the history of the IAF. As a transport aircraft used to move troops to Kashmir in 1947 to being used in the famous Tangail drop during the Bangladesh War in 1971.

The Dakota was at the forefront of operations from 1947 to 1971 and played an indispensable role in logistics and transportation during its flying years in the IAF. No.12 Squadron was the first unit to re-equip with this aircraft in 1946 and the Dakota was at the forefront of operations for the next four decades. Capability of Dakota 

Deouglas DC 3 and its military variant the C47 was selected for the transport squadron of the IAF. The basic version was the DC -3 also called the Dakota. The plane was powered by 2 piston engines and could seat 28 fully armed troops. It had a top speed of 150 MPH and a range of a thousand miles. More important the aircraft had a very low accident rate and in a way, at that time it was the best plane for the IAF.

Induction of Dakota in 12 Squadron

No 12 Squadron was created at Karachi and was allotted 10 Dakotas. While being ferried to Karachi, one DC-3 was damaged beyond repair in a storm. The other 9 aircraft weathered the storm and the training schedule of the IAF pilots commenced on them. With partition looming over the sub-continent and the chance that British rule would end No 12 Squadron was moved out of Karachi to India

The first military role of Dakota 

India achieved freedom on August 15, 1947, and immediately the Pakistan army, aided by an irregular militia consisting of tribesmen from the frontier, invaded Kashmir. The Maharajah of Kashmir Hari Singh immediately acceded to India and signed the instrument of accession. He also requested for Indian troops to fight the invaders who had neared the capital Srinagar.

On October 27, 1947, three Dakotas of No.12 Sqn took off from Wellingdon Airfield (Safdarjung) at 0500 hours for Srinagar, carrying Indian army personnel, signaling the start of the IAF operations in the 1947-48 War. Before the end of the day, 28 Dakota sorties were flown (including 6 civilian sorties). 

Not a single DC 3 was lost and the aircraft proved itself as a hardy plane. Later it was also used to ferry supplies to Leh, the highest airfield in the world at a height of 12000 ft. The first aviator who flew a Dakota and landed at Leh airfield was Air Commodore Mehar Singh. He landed at an improvised strip on November 24, 1948. 

After the end of the Kashmir operations, more Dakotas were procured by the IAF and the main supply lines in the North and East of India were handed to the Dakotas. Two squadrons no 43 and 49 were incorporated in the east specifically for supply forwarding troops. This was just the beginning and after this, the Dakota became a standard transport aircraft of the IAF. The Dakota squadrons were based at Jorhat and Kumbhigran and became the lifeline of the Indian army forward troops.

The Dakota was put to good use during the Indo China war of 1962 and also during the Bangladesh war in 1971. The crucial para-drop operations in Tangail, 60 miles from Dhaka, on December 11, 1971, four days ahead of Pakistan military’s historic surrender to the India-Bangladesh Joint Command on December 16 were done from a Dakota. The capability of the Dakota to take off from underprepared strips and hardy frame and engine was a bonus and troops and supplies were ferried without any attrition. 

One of the Dakotas was gifted to the Mufti Bahini and became known as the ‘kilo squadron’. It was a modified Dakota and the start of the BAF (Bangladesh Air Force) can be traced to this Dakota.

End of Dakota 

After the end of 1971, the Dakota was replaced by the Avro HS-748. The Dakotas were then phased out and some of them were handed to the Border Security Force who used the plane up to 1987. 

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