Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Dakota aircraft used by Biju Patnaik, which had been lying in a dilapidated condition for decades at the airport in Kolkata, is likely to reach here on January 16, officials said.

The former chief minister had used this plane to rescue the then prime minister of Indonesia Sutan Sjahrir in 1947.

A technical team has started dismantling the aircraft at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) Airport in Kolkata on Wednesday and it will be transported to Odisha by road.

The plane will be positioned at the international airport here named after Biju Patnaik, the father of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has already allotted 1.1 acres of land to the State government where the Dakota plane will be displayed for public viewing.

Officials at Odisha's commerce and transport department said that a four-member team has been assigned to dismantle the Dakota (DC-3) VT-AUI aircraft, which is about 64 feet 8 inches long with its wings stretching to 95 feet.

“The team will restore, reassemble and do the renovation work at the airport here. They will start their journey from Kolkata on Jan 14 and will most probably arrive here at Bhubaneswar on Jan 16,” said the Director of BPIA, Prasanna Pradhan.

Efforts to transport the aircraft to Odisha were made in the last two years, and tender was also floated for the initiative, but the COVID-19 pandemic had stalled the plan, a senior official said.

Besides being a social reformer and politician, Biju Patnaik was a skilled pilot who undertook high-risk missions.

He clandestinely flew Indian freedom fighters from one location to another, the historian said.

A grateful Indonesia had twice decorated Biju Patnaik with its highest civilian honour 'Bhumiputra' for rescuing Sutan Sjahrir.

Before joining active politics, Biju Patnaik had set up Kalinga Airlines which operated from Calcutta. He was also a member of the Royal Indian Air Force under British Rule.

(With Agency Inputs)