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Flying high in pioneer’s memory

- Many ways to remember a man of many parts

On February 10, 1929, he was not yet 25 when he became the first Indian to get his flying licence with the proud inscription Number 1.

Fittingly, Jamshedpur remembered Bharat Ratna, corporate visionary and father of Indian aviation J.R.D. Tata with 23 working models of aeroplanes and choppers and eight static showpieces at the Sonari airport to mark his 108th birth anniversary on Sunday.

“The flying experience. None can equal that,” the legend had once recounted to his biographer R.M. Lala. “When you are on your own in that little plane at the control without an instructor, and the plane speeds on the runway and finally takes off, you know you are in the air on your own.”

A little bit of that magic must have rubbed off on the 1,000-odd students and over 2,000 visitors who trooped into the airport to watch the spectacular aviation display held in his honour.

Inaugurated by Surekha Nerurkar, social worker and better half of Tata Steel managing director H.M. Nerurkar, the display was made open to schoolchildren at 8.30am and then to the public at 10am.

Jamshedpur Aeromodelling Club presented eight and Calcutta-based Hobby Club 15 remote-controlled miniature wonders made of thermocol, balsa wood and fibre that can go up to 1,000ft in the air, powered by electronic batteries, methanol and castor oil.

In the static display section, the oldest aircraft was the yellow Pushpak MK1 made in 1965 which caught everyone’s eye. Its single engine, wooden propellers and fabric covering flew one back to a simpler era.

“This year, the number of aero-models is the highest. This is an annual event that we stress on this as there is an inseparable connection between J.R.D. Tata and aircraft,” said B.K. Singh, secretary of Jamshedpur Aeromodelling Club.

“J.R.D. undertook two commemorative flights to mark the 30th and 50th anniversary of India’s civil aviation to inspire young people of our country and to prove that there is joy in having done something as well as you could and better than others thought you could,” said Surekha Nerurkar.

An exhibition on the life of J.R.D. Tata, sit-and-draw competitions, mother and child health check-up camps and marathons also marked the celebrations.

Sanjiv Paul, Tata Steel vice-president (corporate services) also flagged off a cross-country race for 2,500 children at the JRD Tata Sports Complex.

The Tata Steel Family Initiatives Foundation (TSFIF) hosted rallies, medical health check-up for women and family planning programmes.

“The rally with 1,000 teens from 10 schools are part of Apni Baatein, an adolescent programme for government schools. The family planning and signature campaign are ways to spread the message of a small and happy family in slums and urban areas,” said Merlyn F. Anklesaria, manager (family initiatives and health), TSFIF.