Gift For Indian Air Force This Week: A Flying Vintage DC-3 Dakota

A historic week begins for Indian aviation. After years in suspense, this week the Indian Air Force will receive as a gift a refurbished flying vintage Douglas DC-3 Dakota aircraft for its heritage squadron.

The aircraft, repaired and made flight-worthy by Indian member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar in Coventry in the United Kingdom, will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in a few weeks. This week, Chandrasekhar will ceremonially hand over a ‘gift deed’ to Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa in Delhi, IAF sources confirmed.

The Dakota, named Parashuram, will bear the tail no VP 905, the same as the first such aircraft in Indian service that transported troops of the Army’s 1 Sikh Regiment to Srinagar on 27 October 1947 as part of the J&K Operations just weeks after India’s independence. Chandrasekhar’s father Air Commodore M.K. Chandrasekhar (Retd.) was a Dakota pilot in the IAF. It is on behalf of the veteran pilot that the gift is being made.

Livefist learns that the IAF will take delivery of the aircraft in the United Kingdom, with dates and the event still being firmed up. The aircraft will be ferried to India across eight days with multiple stops tentatively by March this year, IAF sources familiar with the project said. And for Chandrasekhar himself, the coming week will be a culmination of a journey that has been far from easy.

Quite apart from the challenge and expense of bringing a virtually scrapped 1948 vintage Dakota (from Ireland in 2010) to fly-worthy status, Chandrasekhar’s proposed gift was initially turned down by the previous UPA government seven years ago on grounds that there were no ‘rules’ or ‘protocols’ that allowed the acceptance of such gifts. Chandrasekhar made a second attempt in February 2013 to get the government to accept the gift towards preserving India’s aviation history, but was turned down again. When Chandrasekhar revived the offer to the new government in 2014, the Ministry of Defence under then minister Manohar Parrikar readily accepted.

“I wrote to the Government in 2011 expressing my desire to gift the restored DC3 so that we could preserve a slice of our aviation history, but they turned it down,” Chandrasekhar wrote in an April 2016 Facebook post. “However, I am glad Manohar Parrikar has accepted my renewed offer and soon the DC 3 Dakota painted in the #IAF colours will be part of its Vintage fleet. In today’s world we risk losing so much of our history if not preserved – for instance #INSVikrant was sold as scrap!”

The Indian Air Force has been known to be keen on adding the Dakota to its vintage flight, which currently includes a de Havilland Tiger Moth and a T-6G Harvard.

With ‘VP 905’ set to arrive in weeks, it’s virtually certain that it will fly at the Air Force Day festivities in October this year. Aviation experts and enthusiasts have also marvelled at the idea of the Dakota flying at the Flying Legends airshow in Duxford, UK or Royal International Air Tattoo 2018, both in July. Word is awaited on whether the Indian Air Force will consider postponing the ferry back to India in order to participate in one of these shows.

The Dakota has been flyworthy for a while now — the team restoring the aircraft had actually been hoping to deliver the aircraft to the IAF in time for a public sortie to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1947 air operations in October last year or the Republic Day flypast last month over Delhi. It is understood that delays within the IAF have slowed delivery so far, though things are finally on track.

“My association with the history and traditions of the armed forces stems from my childhood and so it was painful to learn around 2010 India’s DC 3’s housed in the Sulur Airport Base near Coimbatore were sold as scrap,” Chandrasekhar says.

Remembered by IAF pilot veterans variously as the ‘finest’ and ‘most forgiving’ aircraft in the world, Dakotas entered Indian service shortly before independence in 1946, going on to play a crucial logistics and transport role during hostilities that broke out shortly after. Going on to play an indispensable role in the 1962 and 1971 wars, Dakotas flew their last missions in the eighties, finally retiring in 1987. The Indian Air Force has scrapped all of its retired Dakotas, with an intact airframe from the IAF museum gifted in 2014 to Bangladesh.

3 thoughts on “Gift For Indian Air Force This Week: A Flying Vintage DC-3 Dakota”

  1. I would love to know the status of both our Arjun Mk2 status and what’s the current situation. I been hearing conflicting reports that the mk2 has been approved and that production has started while on the other hand news states they have been put on hold stating further modifications and further weight reduction. I would love to know more about this.
    My second Enquiry is about the status of the long delayed Kaveri engine. It was staged that they would bring out a working prototype in collaboration with the French Safran in a matter of 18 months and since have never heard any further news. Have they made changes or any modifications of rebuilt the entire engine from scrap? Have they achieved the required results to be used on our current/future platforms?

  2. Great story! Congrats to Mr Chandrasekhar for his persistance. At last the heritage of India’s brave pilots will be recognised. It will be great if the IAF can get other vintage flying air craft, including a Spitfires!

  3. Can somebody please identify the rifles held by our Sikh troops in top left pics , only the barrel is visible with conical flash hiders , does not look like FALs but i can be wrong

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