Bhubaneswar: Bishnupada Sethi, Principal Secretary Commerce & Transport is coordinating the efforts to bring the Iconic Dakota aircraft of Legandary Statesman Biju Patnaik, which will reach soon at Bhubaneswar from Kolkata.
As the Airport Authority of India (AAI) has agreed to hand over 1.1 acre land on the premises of the Biju Patnaik International Airport here for the purpose, the process to bring back Dakota is being geared up.
Efforts to transport the aircraft to Odisha were made in the last two years, too, and tender was also floated for the initiative, but the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the plan, a senior official said.
“The State Administration is now all set to complete the process as the AAI, at its recent board meeting, accepted the state government’s proposal to lease out 1.1 acre of land for setting up a memorial, where the aircraft will be put up for display,” said a senior official.
Official sources said, the aircraft, which is 64 feet and 8 inches long, with its wings stretching to 95 feet, will be dismantled for transportation by road to Bhubaneswar from the Kolkata airport. The parts will then be reassembled here after necessary repairs, said sources.
Former Chief Minister, Biju Patnaik, besides being a social reformer and politician, was also a highly skilled pilot who flew planes and undertook high-risk missions ahead of the country’s Independence.
Prasanna Pradhan, the Director of Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA), said that the AAI has given its “go-ahead” to build the memorial as a mark of tribute to the iconic leader. “The Dakota aircraft will be placed at the memorial for public viewing,” he said.
The plane has undergone much wear and tear over the years, Mr.Pradhan added.
Historian Anil Dhir said Biju Patnaik was very fond of Dakota planes.
Mr.Dhir also said that the former CM had used this particular aircraft, currently parked at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, to rescue then Indonesia’s the then Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir and Vice President Mohammad Hatta during a period of turmoil in that country in April 1947.
A grateful Indonesia had twice decorated Legandary Statesman Biju Patnaik with its highest civilian honour ‘Bhumiputra’ for the feat.
Mr.Patnaik, before joining active politics, had set up Kalinga Airlines that operated from Kolkata.
The private airline operated nearly a dozen airplanes, including Dakotas. The ace pilot, who is the father of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, was also a Member of the Royal Indian Air Force under British Regime.
The Braveheart quietly flew Indian freedom fighters from one location to another, said Mr.Dhir.