The Storied Career Of India's Oldest Fighter Pilot, Who Turns 100 Tomorrow

Dalip Singh Majithia retired as a Squadron Chief within the Indian Air Pressure in August 1947.

New Delhi:

On August 5, 1940, a younger Sikh pilot took off on his first coaching flight in a Tiger Moth plane from the Walton airfield in Lahore together with his two British instructors.

17 days later, Dalip Singh Majithia, then simply 20, flew his first solo flight, a flight that paved the way in which for a lifetime in aviation – first within the Air Pressure after which as a personal pilot.

Alongside the way in which, Dalip Singh Majithia had his share of adventures as a fighter pilot flying the legendary Hawker Hurricane on the Burma entrance in the course of the Second World Struggle to changing into the primary particular person to land a airplane within the Kathmandu Valley a number of many years later.

Tomorrow, Dalip Singh Majithia, who retired as a Squadron Chief within the Indian Air Pressure in August 1947, the yr of our independence, turns 100.

He’s India’s oldest dwelling fighter pilot.

“I nonetheless really feel that I am in it, once I meet [Indian Air Force] officers,” says Squadron Chief Majithia. “My batch folks aren’t there anymore, we used to have our conferences on the primary of August yearly for a while.”

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On 23 April, 1949, Dalip Singh Majithia landed in Kathmandu, Nepal. This was the primary touchdown of an plane within the Kathmandu Valley.

Dalip Singh Majithia’s story has been described as “a narrative of religion, braveness and journey” by Pushpinder Singh Chopra, India’s foremost aerospace historian. By the point he graduated as a pilot, he was adequate to be adjudged the most effective pilot of his course.

Dalip Singh Majithia went on to fly a number of plane with the Indian Air Pressure in the course of the pre-independence interval together with the Westland Wapiti IIA, the Hawker Audax and Hart which outfitted No. 1 Squadron, the IAF’s sole squadron on the time. 

After initially being assigned to Coast Defence Flights the place he flew maritime patrols over the Bay of Bengal, he was re-assigned to No.6 Squadron, Indian Air Pressure, which was shortlisted to function one of the crucial superior plane on the earth on the time, the legendary Hawker Hurricane.

“It was a stunning plane. The Hurricane could be very properly often known as it gained the Battle of Britain and we had nice respect for them because it had an excellent engine,” says Dalip Singh Majithia. “I used to like this plane. It was very robust. They used to say, ‘you may hit a tree’ and nonetheless come again.”

The Hurricane was the primary fight plane to transcend 300 mph in degree flight and was extraordinarily versatile. Greater than 300 variants of the Hurricane have been provided to the IAF between 1942 and 1944. The fighter went on to grow to be the spine of operations within the Assam and Burma campaigns.

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Dalip Singh Majithia retired as a Squadron Chief within the Indian Air Pressure in August 1947, the yr of our independence.

Dalip Singh Majithia would go on to serve in East India and fly over the Burma entrance underneath the command of the legendary Baba Meher Singh, who was honoured with a Distinguished Service Order in the course of the Second World Struggle and went on to get a Maha Vir Chakra for his position within the 1947-48 conflict with Pakistan. 

“Each mission [on the Burma front] was very tough however we simply needed to discover the Japanese however their use of camouflage was superb.” Flying missions over a number of the densest jungles on Earth was an unimaginable problem for the Squadron. “The jungle was very thick and we needed to find the place they have been. The Japanese military was shifting ahead in direction of India and we needed to detect them.”

The Hurricanes of No.6 Squadron have been assigned to take vertical and indirect photographs. They’d fly in two plane formations. In every sortie, “the ‘Chief’ took photographs and did the recce work and his No.2, the ‘Weaver’, protected the chief’s tail” from enemy interceptors and floor hearth. 

With the give up of the Japanese and the Second World Struggle winding down, Dalip Singh Majithia was chosen to be part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces and moved to BCOF Headquarters in Melbourne, the place he met Joan Sanders (whose father was with the British Indian Military). On 18 February, 1947, Dalip Singh Majithia married Joan at his household house in Gorakhpur the place the household had appreciable land holdings and enterprise pursuits.

He was persuaded to go away the Indian Air Pressure however clearly, his love for flying by no means waned.

“Simply earlier than the top of the conflict, the People bought all their plane in India and my uncle purchased these two L5 mild plane.” However making these plane flight-worthy was no simple activity. “We had no mechanic,” says Dalip Singh Majithia. “I had an auto mechanic taking care of the storage. My uncle and he have been in cost and he used to come back and test the magnetos of the plane.” Miraculously, the plane have been repaired efficiently. “I flew these two aircrafts far and wide and fortuitously, I had a pilot’s license earlier, so I had no drawback.”

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On 18 February, 1947, Dalip Singh Majithia married Joan Sanders at his household house in Gorakhpur the place the household had appreciable land holdings and enterprise pursuits.

The household went on to amass two Beechcraft Bonanza plane. These have been four-seater plane, considered one of which went on to make aviation historical past with Dalip Singh Majithia on the controls.

On 23 April, 1949, Dalip Singh Majithia landed in Kathmandu, Nepal. This was the primary touchdown of an plane within the Kathmandu Valley and adopted a request from the Prime Minister, Mohan Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana. In a letter to the Indian Ambassador, the Prime Minister of Nepal requested, “I’ve been questioning if it might be potential to utilize small transport planes to hold paddy to Kathmandu Valley after the rains, figuring out that Dakotas require a touchdown floor which might be tough to prepare.”

“My uncle (Surjit Singh Majithia) was the Ambassador and he was very eager for me to satisfy the PM.” The dialog moved to flights into Nepal with permission being granted in fast time.

“I had a very good look earlier than [landing] and did not have any support on the bottom in anyway,” says Dalip Singh Majithia, describing his first strategy into Kathmandu. “My uncle put a windsock for me. That’s all I had.” Dalip Singh Majithia made two makes an attempt to land. “The primary one was not so good as a result of it was late April with a number of clouds. However the second time, I circled round Kathmandu and made it.” This was an unprepared strip. “Fortunately, there was no one on the bottom. My uncle got here and picked me up.” Immediately, the world the place Dalip Singh Majithia made his first touchdown is the location of the current Tribhuvan Worldwide Airport at Kathmandu.

Dalip Singh Majithia’s ardour for aviation continued for a number of many years. He made his final recorded flight on January 16, 1979, once more in a Beechcraft Bonanza. Over a time period, the household got here to amass a number of plane. A few of these nonetheless energetic on air constitution duties with Saraya Air Charters, a number of the others at the moment are retired.

Requested what its like to attain a century in life, the Squadron Chief says, “Nicely God is nice and I am very grateful for each assist I’ve gotten from my household.”

Health has been a key a part of Dalip Singh Majithia’s life, Golf a long-lasting ardour. “I am very grateful to God for letting me play a number of golf. I acquired a gap in a single a variety of instances, and my final gap in a single was final yr within the golf course in Nainital.”

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