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Air India needs JRD Tata’s legacy once again to get back in shape

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on October 09, 2021

JRD Tata, photographed at Juhu on October 15, 1962, with a De Havilland Leopard Moth aircraft, after re-enacting the 30th anniversary flight of the first scheduled air service in India which he piloted for Tata Airlines on October 15, 1932   -  The Hindu Archives

If the Tata group wants to resurrect Air India back to its glory, it will have to usher in the legacy left by JRD

Sometime in the late 1960s, JRD Tata went missing for more than an hour while travelling in an Air India flight with a top bureaucrat. JRD, who was heading the airline as the Chairman, was checking if the toilets in the flight were clean and found a toilet role was out of place. JRD then went to each toilet on the aircraft to check if the rolls had been placed as they should have been and then personally corrected any wrong placements.

According to a note by Meher Heroyce Moos, who joined Air India as an air hostess in 1965, “JRD would walk the length of the aircraft, checking out the galleys, the equipment used, the furnishings, whether the curtain had frayed, or whether dust was found on the lower edges, the crew’s interaction with the passengers and above all the quality of the meal services”.

“This singular attention to the smallest element of detail undoubtedly had its impact on every member of the team, and made Air India one of the finest airlines in the world,” Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons, wrote in a recent social media post.

First flight

If the Tata group wants to resurrect Air India back to its glory, it will have to usher in this legacy left by JRD. Air India was founded by JRD Tata in 1932 as Tata Airlines. JRD’s love for flying also made him the first recipient of the first commercial pilot licence ever issued to an Indian.

On October 15, 1932, JRD Tata famously piloted the first flight in the history of Indian aviation. The Tata Air Services flight took off from Karachi's Drigh Road Aerodrome and flew to Mumbai's Juhu Airstrip. The aircraft was a single-engined De Havilland Puss Moth.

“On an exciting October dawn in 1932, a Puss Moth and I soared joyfully from Karachi with our first precious load of mail, on an inaugural flight to Bombay,” JRD Tata later recalled. “We were a small team in those days. We shared successes and failures, the joys and headaches, as together we built up the enterprise which later was to blossom into Air-India and Air-India International.”

Even after the airline was nationalised in 1953, JRD continued to be the Chairman of Air India until 1977. Now, 68 years after it was nationalised, the airline is back with the Tata group.

Published on October 08, 2021

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