From the archives: Know about Juhu Aerodrome, India's first civil aviation airport

From the archives: Know about Juhu Aerodrome, India's first civil aviation airport

Built in 1928, this aerodrome today handles only VIP flights and helicopter services.

India's aviation history remains relatively less known, compared to the well-documented developments in its transport infrastructure and forthcoming technologies.

Thus, today we unravel some historical narratives associated with India's first civil airport — the Juhu Aerodrome. Built in 1928, this particular aerodrome paved the way for multiple success aviation stories. Nestled in the upmarket suburb of Mumbai's Juhu, the aerodrome today handles VIP flights and helicopter services only. But, let's take a moment to witness the rich past of how it got here.

Juhu Aerodrome's historical trajectory 

Let's travel through the sands of time and talk about the era of Young India, shall we? Certain events that would be forever engraved on the pages of Indian (and even the world) history took place during this period. Drowning in the fire of political upheaval, with full-fledged revolts to overthrow the British Government, India was still fighting for her freedom.

India History Pic/@IndiaHistorypic

From the death of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai and subsequent revenge and arrest of revolutionaries Sardar Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru to the establishment of Independence of India League — the year 1928 was heavily significant. In 1932, the Indian aviator, industrialist and chairman of Tata Group, JRD Tata landed at the Juhu Aerodrome. Here, he flew a Puss Moth aircraft and inaugurated India's first-ever commercial mail service.

JRD Tata at Mumbai's Juhu aerodrome post inaugural mail flight from Karachi on Oct 15, 1932.
JRD Tata at Mumbai's Juhu aerodrome post inaugural mail flight from Karachi on Oct 15, 1932.Mumbai Heritage/@mumbaiheritage

In 1936, the Juhu Aerodrome expanded and got new runways, making the place an active hub for Tata Airmail. Later, it was upgraded with concrete runways, flying services in night, among other advanced facilities.

While the world was still recovering from the effects of World War 1 and stepping into the lava ahead, the Juhu Aerodrome served as Bombay's primary airport up to World War II. The airfield also was seen as a strategic base to aid the allies and assist Britain in its war efforts in Asia.

It was in 1948 that commercial operations were transferred to the significantly larger RAF Santacruz (now CSIA), due to problems of waterlogging and other shortages.

The Juhu Aerodrome runway also served as the genesis of Air India in 1932.

Juhu Aerodrome continues to thrive today for numerous reasons

Wanna get some B-Town insiders related to the aerodrome?

Well, the Juhu Aerodrome served as a backdrop for some of the scenes in 'Slumdog Millionaire', the 2008 film 'A Wednesday', and many more.

Despite the repeated efforts by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) of upgrading and expanding the Juhu Aerodrome, commercial operations could never resume here. However, currently, the airfield caters to all helicopter operations out of the city, besides VIP flights and small General Aviation aircrafts.

Moreover, it flies out eminent personalities, including state and national leaders, celebrities, and so on. It is also reserved for military operations. Additionally, it hosts the Bombay Flying Club and aids aspiring pilots of the country.

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