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Feature: Major plane accidents in the 100 years of Indian civil aviation – Part 1

Yesterday we focussed on the highlights of the last 100 years of Indian civil aviation. Today we focus on the tragedies.

We are listing the major scheduled commercial civil aviation accidents with fatalities that have occurred to Indian carriers or within the geographic confines of India. Military, non-scheduled, and private/business jet/charter aircraft are excluded or the list will be too long. For a full list of accidents in India please visit the Aviation Safety Network which has been a valuable source of information for this article along with other sources like Wikipedia and Simon Hradecky at Aviation Herald which along with ASN, I consider as one of the finest websites for all aviation incident related news.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you are aware of any accidents that have been missed, please do help us spread the information via a comment.

Part 1 (till 1952)

The early days of Indian aviation were dominated by war related accidents and incidents of military aircraft during World War II.

The earliest recorded crash with fatalities was soon after independence on December 27, 1947, when a Douglas DC-3 Dakota VT-AUG of Air India crashed at Korangi Creek in Pakistan on a flight from Karachi to Bombay killing all 19 passengers and 4 crew.

On January 16, 1949, another Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-CDZ of Dalmia Jain Airways crashed at Banihal Pass in India while enroute to Srinagar killing all 9 passengers and 4 crew.

On July 12, 1949, in the worst accident of the Constellation aircraft, at the time, a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Lockheed L-749 Constellation PH-TDF from flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Delhi and Bombay, with 34 passengers and 11 crew, was flown in to a hill side (a situation today called CFIT – Controlled Flight Into Terrain) while on approach to Bombay Santa Cruz airport (today known as Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport). All aboard perished.

On July 17, 1950, near Pathankot, Punjab, the port wing of a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-ATS of Indian National Airways failed in turbulence during a flight from New Delhi Safdarjang airport to Srinagar. All 18 passengers and 4 crew lost their lives.

On November 3, 1950, the first accident of an Indian carrier outside the sub-continent. An Air India Lockheed L-749 Constellation VT-CQP with 40 passengers and 8 crew had a CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) when it was flown in to the side of Mont Blanc in France at an elevation of 15,000 feet, while performing flight AI-245 from Bombay to London via Cairo and Geneva. The plane and the bodies were located only after 2 days.

Just a month later, on December 13, 1950, in another case of CFIT, a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-CFK of Air India was flown in to the side of Kotagiri, the highest peak in the Nilgiri mountain range on a flight from Bombay to Coimbatore. All 17 passengers and 4 crew were killed.

On July 12, 1951, a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-CHT of cargo operator Indamer crashed about 50km NW of Tezpur. The 3 crew aboard were killed.

On September 15, 1951, a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-CCA of Air India with 23 passengers and 4 crew lost control while taking off from Bangalore HAL airport bound for Trivandrum. The cause was attributed as “lost control and crashed when attempting to take off with the autopilot engaged”. 1 crew member was killed. The hull was damaged beyond repair and written off.

On November 21, 1951, a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-AUO of Deccan Airways with 13 passengers and 4 crew crashed in to trees while attempting to land in poor visibility at Calcutta Dum Dum airport on a flight from Bombay Santa Cruz via Nagpur. The lone survivor was a passenger, Mr. C.N. Mehta. Read the Indian Express newspaper of the day here.

A month later, on December 31, 1951, a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-COA of Kalinga Airlines performing a cargo flight crashed in to trees when climbing out of Calcutta Dum Dum airport. The 3 crew aboard were killed.

On February 19, 1952, a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-AXE of Deccan Airways with 12 passengers and 4 crew crashed in to trees while attempting to land at night at Nagpur. One passenger and two crew perished. The cause was attributed to pilot error due to a wrong altimeter setting. [Note: the VT-AXx series of registration is now currently used by Air India Express.]

On April 10, 1952, a cargo Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-DFN of Kalinga Airlines with 4 crew crashed at Agartala in north east India, while attempting an emergency landing following an engine failure. All aboard were killed.

On April 30, 1952, a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota VT-AUN of Deccan Airways with 5 passengers and 4 crew crashed while approaching New Delhi Safdarjung airport on a flight from Madras. All aboard were killed. The cause was attributed to fuel starvation of the port engine due a fuel imbalance during a steep turn causing the pilot to lose control.

On October 22, 1952, a cargo Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakota AP-AAZ of Orient Airways with 3 crew on a flight from Dhaka, East Pakistan to Karachi, Pakistan, crashed while attempting a forced landing at Jamshedpur (the home of Tata Steel). One crew member died in the accident. The aircraft hull was a total loss.

The torrid decade in Indian Aviation will continue tomorrow. Stay tuned for Part 2.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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