Biju Patnaik’s Dakota aircraft draws crowd on its way to Bhubaneswar from Calcutta
Hundreds of people Wednesday were seen waiting along the National Highway connecting Kolkata with Bhubaneswar to have a glimpse of the dismantled Dakota aircraft used by legendary leader Biju Patnaik.
Three vehicles carrying the dismantled parts of the plane crossed the Laxmannath toll plaza on the Odisha-West Bengal border, and reached Jaleswar in the early hours of Wednesday.
The lorries, escorted by the Odisha Police, are scheduled to reach the state capital by Wednesday evening.
The dismantled Dakota (DC-3) VT-AUI aircraft will be reassembled and then positioned at a designated place at the international airport here named after Biju Patnaik, the father of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
The plane remained abandoned for decades on the premises of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Calcutta.
The aircraft weighed over 8 tonnes and was around 64 feet 8 inches long.
The Odisha government has engaged a specialised team to reassemble the dismantled parts after the vehicles carrying them arrive at the Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) here.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has allotted 1.1 acres of land for this purpose at the BPIA here.
Biju Patnaik had founded Kalinga Airlines, which operated nearly a dozen Dakotas from its headquarters in Kolkata.
The plane has undergone much wear and tear over the years, said Prasanna Pradhan, the director of Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) here.
Historian Anil Dhir said Biju Patnaik was very fond of Dakota planes.
Biju Patnaik had used a Dakota aircraft to rescue the then Indonesian prime minister Sutan Sjahrir in April 1947, Dhar said.
A grateful Indonesia had twice decorated Biju Patnaik with its highest civilian honour 'Bhumiputra' for the feat.
The ace pilot was also a member of the Royal Indian Air Force under British rule.
He clandestinely flew Indian freedom fighters from one location to another, the historian said.
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