BHUBANESWAR: With the Airport Authority of India (AAI) finally agreeing to hand over land, decks are cleared for the iconic Dakota aircraft of former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik to adorn the city airport named after the legendary leader.
For public display of the DC3 aircraft in front of the Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA), the AAI has agreed to hand over 1.1 acre of land for the purpose. The aircraft, which Patnaik had used to rescue erstwhile Indonesian Vice President Muhammad Hatta and Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir from their enemies in July 1947, is currently lying in a decrepit condition at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata.
Although the State government had initiated efforts to shift the 20-metre long aircraft having a wingspan of 29 metre to Odisha in 2020 and floated a tender for its transportation, the process was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Director of BPIA Prasanna Pradhan said the AAI has given its nod to hand over the land outside Terminal 1 for display of the aircraft as a mark of tribute to the legendary leader. “As per plan, the aircraft will be dismantled and transported from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar before being assembled here for public view. A memorial will be built for placing the aircraft,” he said.
Known for his daredevilry and piloting acumen, Patnaik had formed Kalinga Airline which had 15 Dakota planes at its headquarters at Kolkata. The airplanes were being used by the Army for transporting jawans deployed in Kashmir and dropping supplies at north-eastern area of the country.
“The tender floated for transportation of the aircraft has been finalised. The aircraft will be brought back on road after it is dismantled. The work order will be awarded once the land is handed over by AAI. Hopefully, the process will be completed soon and the aircraft will be finally placed as a memorial for public viewing,” said a government official.
Initially, it was decided to get back the aircraft following a communication from the AAI in 2018 and put it on display as a relic associated with Patnaik as part of the museum developed at his ancestral house ‘Anand Bhavan’ in Cuttack. It did not work out due to lack of follow up action by the Culture department.
Heritage researcher and member of INTACH Anil Dhir had written to CM Naveen Patnaik to take steps for getting back the Dakota aircraft.