It was a historic day as the Dakota DC3 VP 905 Parashurama taxied into the venue at Air Force Station Hindan to a water cannon salute.
The fully restored Dakota DC-3 gifted to the Indian Air Force by Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar on behalf of his father Air Commodore M K Chandrasekhar (Retd) VM, VSM, on 13 February 18, was formally inducted into the IAF Vintage Flight on 4 May 2018 in a grand ceremony at Air Force Station Hindan.
Air Cmde M K Chandrasekhar, a veteran Dakota pilot himself, handed over a symbolic key to the Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal B S Dhaoa and the Dakota VP 905 named Parashurama after the Eternal Warrior saint joined the vintage flight which includes a de Havilland Tiger Moth and a T-6G Harvard.
The induction ceremony was attended by over 200 Air Force veterans who relived their memories of having flow the Dakota and as many serving Air Force personnel. Also present were senior functionaries of the MoD and diplomats from the High Commission of the UK.
The World War II era 1944 vintage Dakota was bought by Rajeev Chandrasekhar in 2011. It was restored painstakingly by Alex Woodeson and his team at M/S Reflight Works Ltd UK over a period of six years. “It was a wonderful gesture on Rajeev’s part to stand outside the box and persevere with it and not give up”, said Woodeson.
VP 905 embarked on its journey home from the UK on 17 Apr 18 and was flown by a joint crew of the IndianAir Force and M/s ReflightAirworks Ltd. Taking off from Coventry, UK, the Dakota covered a distance of 9750 km during its ferry and made stops at France, Italy, Greece, Jordan, Bahrain and Oman. The aircraft landed on Indian soil at Air Force Station Jamnagar on 25 April 18. Air Cmde MK Chandrasekhar (Retd) was granted special permission by the Raksha Mantri to fly on board the aircraft from Jamnagar to Air Force Station Hindan.
Tail No VP 905 bears special significance as it is the same as the first Dakota 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. The troops of 1 Sikh were led by CO Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai, the first Indian Army officer to fall in the line of duty in Independent India and the first recipient of the MahaVir Chakra (posthumously).
Present as a special invitee at the induction ceremony was Mrs Aruna Ahliwalia, daughter of Lt Col Rai who said the Dakota was a significant part of India’s Military history and it was only befitting that the aircraft has now found its permanent place in the IAF vintage flight.
For Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the induction of Parashurama into the IAF Vintage Flight is about that too. He says, “While its Tiger moth and Harvard do signal history, its birds like the Dakota that truly paint a live picture of the operations and men over decades of service in the Airforce. The Dak also represents the role of Airforce in the birth of our nation especially VP905 and Srinagar operations. It has been piloted by some of our earliest IAF legends like Air CmdeMehar Singh and many Air warriors since including I’m proud to say Air Cmde MK Chandrasekhar.”
Speaking on the occasion, Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal B S Dhanoa thanked the joint crew of Reflight works and India Airforce for successfully ferrying the warhorse across the globe. Speaking on the occasion he said the journey across the globe not only reflected the professionalism and efficiency of the crew but also symbolises the ruggedness and reliability of the Dakota – lovingly called the Gooney Bird.
The Dakota was the first major transport aircraft inducted into the fledgling Indian Air Force (IAF). Remembered by IAF pilot veterans as one of the finest and most forgiving aircrafts 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.
“It is important to the present and future generations of those who serve and will serve in the IndianAirForce or indeed any organization that’s built on values of service and sacrifice – that Dakota’s history and legacy be never forgotten and that it is told and retold to our future generations again and again,” Says Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
The journey that began for the Dakota on 17 April 2018 may have concluded but VP 905 Parashurama, named after the eternal warrior saint, will continue to inspire with its legacy each time it flies across the Indian skies hereafter.
Shivani Sharma Dasmahapatra