Celebrating Ethics Week in Memory of the Father of Indian Civil Aviation

Image Courtesy: Tata Group

Air India Express observed Ethics Week from 25th to 29th July 2022 to mark the 118th Birth Anniversary of JRD Tata, the Father of Indian Civil Aviation. All the employees took an Oath to mark the occasion, which was then followed by a webinar conducted by TATA Group.

Tata has always been a values-driven organisation. These values continue to direct the growth and business of Tata companies. The five core Tata values underpinning the way we do business are Integrity, Excellence, Responsibility, Pioneering, & Unity.

JRD Tata’s birth anniversary is celebrated not just by the aviation industry, but the entire nation. Here is a short note on the role he played in the Indian civil aviation sector.

An iconic industrialist, JRD Tata’s tryst with aviation began as a child. His hero was the ace French pilot Louis Blériot, the first man to cross the English Channel by air. After moving to India in 1929, he achieved his goal to touch the skies and became the first person in the country to receive a pilot’s license.

A year later, he competed for the Aga Khan Trophy, which was being offered to the first Indian to fly solo from India to England. En route, he met his competitor, Aspy Engineer, who needed spare plugs. JRD gave him four of his own, which eventually cost him the competition.

In 1932, JRD set up Tata Airlines, the first Indian commercial carrier to transport mail and passengers within India. The company was based out of a small hut with a palm-thatched roof at Juhu Airstrip in Bombay. JRD flew the first leg of the inaugural Karachi-Madras journey himself, taking mail from Karachi to Bombay via Ahmedabad using a single-engine De Havilland Puss Moth. In its first year, Tata Airlines flew 160,000 miles, carrying 155 passengers and more than 10 tonnes of mail.

Tata Airlines became Air India in 1946. Two years later, following Indian independence, the government took 49% of the company. Following JRD’s recommendation, the government established Indian Airlines to run domestic services while JRD took the helm of Air India International, which was granted a license to operate international flights. Five years later, the Government of India exercised its option to purchase a majority stake in the carrier and despite the nationalization of the airline, JRD remained in charge of Air India until 1978.

His contributions have greatly impacted Indian aviation. He was named Honorary Group Captain of the Indian Air Force in 1948 and an Honorary Air Commodore of India in 1966. His commitment to working together was probably his greatest contribution to modern aviation. As he put it, “no success in material terms is worthwhile unless it serves the needs or interests of the country and its people.”

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