New Delhi: Vintage lovers, here is a good news. Leopard Moth, the plane that Indian pioneer aviator and founder of Air India — Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy (JRD) Tata flew from Karachi to Mumbai and later gifted to the headquarters of Aero club of India at Safdarjung airport in 1984 will soon be seen purring again.
Air India chief Ashwani Lohani, who is credited with reviving the oldest working steam locomotive in the world, the 1855 built EIR 22 famously known as Fairy Queen, plans to make JRD’s cub flyable by 2017, which is also the 75th anniversary of Air India.
“We are looking at JRD Tata’s plane which is at the Aero club - to restore the aircraft back to its original condition and recreate the the first flight from Mumbai to Karachi," Ashwani Lohani, chairman and managing director of Air India told this newspaper.
However, given the “complex” relations between India and Pakistan, Air India has a plan B ready too and that is to fly it from Ahmedabad-Mumbai, if the original plan doesn’t work.
Famous business chief JRD Tata had in 1962 re-enacted his first flight from Karachi to Bombay for the airline’s 30 anniversary. In 1982, JRD flew the refurbished Leopard Moth once again along the same route to celebrate Air India’s 50 th anniversary before he gifted it to the club in Delhi in 1984.
Mr Lohani who has executed various heritage projects during his earlier stint as a railway man is all set for another feather in his cap. While it takes a tremendous operation to get a retired aircraft back to air, Air India has already chalked out a plan for making it possible.
Indicating their interest to commemorate JRD’s flight, “cash starved” Air India has already approached Ratan Tata for his support to pump in money so that the plane his uncle flew has its engine humming again.
“The restoration and refurbishing is estimated to cost around `3 crores. The project was put in abeyance for a while as Air India which is already a loss making company could not support it.
“However, good news is we have got positive response from Ratan Tata. We are expected to meet him soon,”sources said. To rebuild the aircraft in same fashion, aircraft refurbishing companies in the UK and US have been looked at. India lacks experts for vintage aircraft maintenance....