HYDERABAD: Hyderabad Does Not Have An Aviation Museum. Relics Of Yore Remain Only In Photographs And Books. Now, Heritage Activists Want A Portion Of The Begumpet Airport To Be Converted Into An Aviation Museum To Inspire The Younger Generation
The legacy of civil aviation in Hyderabad continues to inspire pilots and researchers in aviation even seven decades after the first commercial flight took off the Begumpet airport in July 1946.The Begumpet airport, which is now virtually defunct, has been a witness to the history of Hyderabad’s civil and military aviation as it unfolded over the years. It was the first airport to watch a new chapter being drafted in the world of aviation when the world’s first woman commercial pilot took off from its runway in 1948. However, the aviation history of Hyderabad traces back to a little over 100 years ago, 1911 to be precise.
In fact, Hyderabad’s aviation heritage is intricately linked with the nobility and the ordinary citizens, and military and civil aircraft. It also cherishes several interesting episodes including the air phobia of the Nizam VII, Mir Osman Ali Khan, who founded the Begumpet airport, and the mysterious Sydney Cotton, who airdropped arms prior to the Operation Polo or the so-called Police Action in 1948 that led to the merger of Hyderabad state with the Indian Union. The runway and the air traffic control tower in Begumpet airport still echoes the daredevilry of the women aircrew. Sadly, Hyderabad with a glorious history and heritage of civil and military aviation does not boast of an aviation museum. The aviation relics of Hyderabad of yore are missing. Almost all of them now remain in old photographs and books on aviation. There have been no efforts either to establish a museum that talks about Hyderabad’s aviation heritage, its Indian-majority aero club, the grand airshows at Begumpet and Hakimpet, when aviation was in its nascent stage of development, and the military fighter planes gifted by the Nizam to the Royal Air Force of the British government during the first and the second World Wars.
Heritage activists demand that a portion of the Begumpet airport should be showcased as a museum dedicated to the aviation history of Hyderabad to inspire the young generation. It should display vintage aircraft, if any, old photographs, medals, pilot licences, and life-size models of men and women, who made Hyderabad proud in the aviation world.
Long before Begumpet airport took to commercial operations, Hyderabad had its own state aero club with women members too. A Times of India report on April 15, 1938, reveals that the total membership of the Hyderabad State Aero Club “rose to 70 and the total flying time last month (March 1938) amounted to 69 hours, 20 minutes.Four across country flights were made by members of the Club”.
News archives of 1938 also reveal how Aban P Chenoy, daughter of Pestonji B Chenoy , retired mint master, achieved the distinction of being the first woman member of the Hyderabad State Aero Club to qualify for an “A” licence. Pestonji had also served as the controller to Prince Basalat Jah, son of Nizam VI, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan. There were airshows at Begumpet and Hakimpet airports in 1930s and the office building of the Aero Club was located at Habsiguda.
Hyderabad had the distinction of employing the world’s first woman commercial pilot, Captain Prema Mathur, in its Deccan Airways during late 1940s.