A dismantled Dakota aircraft used by aviator and politician Biju Patnaik several decades ago was brought from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar where Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik offered floral tribute to the plane which carried memories of his father. Escorted by Odisha Police, three lorries carried the dismantled portions of the aircraft from Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport to the Odisha capital, where they will be reassembled. After that, the Dakota (DC-3) VT-AUI aircraft will be kept at a designated place in the international airport here named after Biju Patnaik, the father of the Odisha chief minister.
“I am delighted that this legendary aircraft of Biju Babu has finally returned here,” Naveen Patnaik said. Biju Patnaik, a former Odisha chief minister, had in the 1940s founded Kalinga Airlines which had 12 planes and four of them were Dakotas. The CM said his father who died in 1997 had many historic exploits in Dakota planes.
“The greatest of them was when he flew to Indonesia through Dutch blockades and the only other person in the aircraft was my mother who was a co-pilot. They rescued the then Indonesian prime minister Sutan Sjahrir (in April 1947),” he said.
However, the Dakota which was brought from Kolkata was not the one which Biju Patnaik used to rescue the Indonesian leader at the request of Jawaharlal Nehru, historian Anil Dhir said. A grateful Indonesia had twice decorated Biju Patnaik with its highest civilian honour ‘Bhumiputra’ for the feat.
The plane which was brought to Odisha remained abandoned for decades on the premises of the airport in Kolkata. When the 64 feet long aircraft weighing over 8 tonnes reached Bhubaneswar, slogans like “Biju Patnaik Amar Rahe” rented the air.
Apart from Naveen Patnaik, Bhubaneswar Mayor Sulochana Das, a number of ministers, MLAs, persons associated with the aviation industry and many others reached the Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) here to welcome the arrival of the Dakota aircraft.
The Odisha government has engaged a special team to reassemble the dismantled parts of the aircraft. The Airports Authority of India has allotted 1.1 acres of land for this purpose at the BPIA here.
The plane has undergone much wear and tear over the years, said BPIA director Prasanna Pradhan. Earlier in the day, hundreds of people gathered beside the National Highway connecting Kolkata with Bhubaneswar to have a glimpse of the dismantled Dakota aircraft.
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