History of Darbhanga Airport & Aviation in Mithila

Darbhanga News
Darbhanga Aviation aircraft
An aircraft with fish icon (right) – the royal insignia of the Darbhanga Raj

The history of aviation in Mithila dates back to the period of Maharaja Rameshwar Singh of Darbhanga although the first commercial flight service was started during the early ’50s.

First Aircraft in Mithila

Bristol F.2b Fighter F-4440 plane donated by Darbhanga Maharaj
Bristol F.2b Fighter F-4440 plane donated by Rameshwar Singhof Darbhanga

On the side of the F-4440 plane aircraft, you can identify an inscription which states “PRESENTED BY” Maharaja Bahadur Sir Rameswar Singh of DARBHANGA No1. Lord Hardinge”.

Hence, the first aircraft that was related to Mithila was the Bristol F.2b Fighter F-4440 plane. This fighter jet was gifted by the Tirhut Sarkar’s head Rameshwar Singh to the Indian soldiers under British regime who fighting against the Central Powers in world war I. The king purchased and donated the fighter plane in 1917 and it was crashed in a dogfight in 1917.

Airports developed in Raj Era

Sarkar of Tirhut who were later on popularly known as Darbhanga Maharaj built three major airfields- Darbhanga Airport, Purnia Airport and Cooch Behar Airport. The Khandavala kings also developed smaller runways like the one in Madhubani.

The man behind first commercial flights from Darbhanga

DC-3 Dakota VT-AZX by Darbhanga Aviation
DC-3 Dakota VT-AZX was among the four aircrafts operated by Darbhanga Aviation

The start of commercial flights from Darbhanga started off with the launch of a new airline company – Darbhanga Aviation by the last King of Darbhanga – Kameshwarwar Singh [1]. The year of 1950, thus, first saw the start commercial flights from Darbhanga. Darbhanga Aviation closed down by the year 1962. The interest of Maharaj Kameshwar Singh in aviation was to such an extent that he had even organized an aerial view tour of Mount Everest in 1933.

After many attempts to revive airport and commercial flights from Darbhanga, the effort was finally successful on November 2020 when Government of India started with fixed flights schedules for Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore under the UDAAN scheme.

Aircrafts used during Darbhanga Raj

Darbhanga Aviation company was floated with four service aircraft – VT-DEM, VT-AYG, VT-AXZ VT-CME. All these were of type bought 4 DC-3 Dakota airline carrier. These aircraft were purchased on Darbhanga Aviation from US army auction in 1950.

Apart from transporting cargo between Kolkata and Dhaka, these aircraft were also used to ferry guests to Darbhanga Maharaj. The headquarter of Darbhanga Aviation company was in Kolkata. with Dwarka Nath Jha as its director.

Why Darbhanga Aviation sank?

VT-DEM aircraft of Darbhanga Aviation Crash news
Indian Express of May 1, 1962 published news of crash of VT-DEM

The most common reason for closing down of Darbhanga Aviation was the accidents, which killed several occupants on board. Overall 11 people were killed in various air accidents which doomed the prospects of airline company floated by King of Darbhanga.

Darbhanga Aviation met its first setback when its Douglas C-47A-DL (DC-3) type aircraft registered as VT-DEM crashed on April 30, 1954, on Dum Dum airport of Kolkata. The flight was scheduled for Balurghat airport and this accident killed 5 of the 11 occupants onboard. The accident was a big blow to the reputation of the aviation company. After the accident, the company was never able to regain the trust of people in its services.

After the accident of its first plane, Darbhanga Aviation lost another plane in a crash only the next year. The aviation company had leased its aircraft VT-AZX to Kalinga Airlines founded by Biju Patnaik, who later on went on to become the chief minister of Orissa. Unfortunately, the leased Douglas Dakota crashed on August 30, 1955 killing 2 out of 3 crew members.

24 May 1962 came as a final blow to Darbhanga Aviation when its Douglas DC-3 aircraft registered as VT-AYG crashed in Bangladesh killing all 4 passengers on board.

Darbhanga King’s Personal Aircraft

During the Raj era, while three aircrafts – VT-DEM, VT-AYG, VT-AZX aircrafts were alwways available to the general public, and VT-CME aircraft was especially reserved for King Kameshwar Singh. The custom designed VT-CME was among the India’s first luxury aircraft, with several unique features.

The fate of Darbhanga Maharaj’s Aircraft

VT-CME aircraft carried Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and, later on, Morarji Bhai Desai, when he became Prime Minister. The VT-CME aeroplane remained with Kameshwar Singh until his death in 1962. Subsequently, the registration expired and cancelled later on.

During the Indo-China war, the trustees of the Darbhanga Raj handed over the airport and related assets to Government of India for defence uses. The luxury aircraft of Darbhanga Maharaj Kameshwar Singh – VT-CME, was also donated to the government.

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