Dabolim and TAIP - 2
A tale of a Goan Airport and Airline
Gabriel de Figueiredo
As the range of the plane had to be extended to allow a direct flight from Karachi to Dabolim, the baggage of the passengers was off-loaded at Karachi to allow for extra fuel. Before landing at Dabolim, Maj. Solano de Almeida circled over Panjim to a joyous applause from the population welcoming the first aeroplane of their own airline. The journey back to Karachi on 12th August 1955 to collect the baggage left there on the maiden voyage, inaugurated the flight connection Goa-Karachi.
However, on arrival at Dabolim, the crew was disappointed with the progress made in development of the airport. There was just a track, one radio beacon, a parking apron an electricity generator and a small roofed enclosure to serve as the maintenance hangar. Therefore, whilst awaiting the arrival of the CR-IAB (which arrived on 28th September 1955), TAIP was re-structured into two divisions: one for Operations and Instruction, the other for Maintenance, Workshop and Apron. Also by this time, the airports at Damão and Diu were quite ready, with the CR-IAA making inaugural flights to Diu on 16th August and to Damão on 29th August 1955.
Properly stated, these airports at Damão and Diu had a lot to be desired with respect to infrastructure, e.g. the passenger terminal at Diu was a palm-thatched shack, and planes were refuelled directly from containers using hand pumps. However, this did not impede its practicality, and dramatic improvements were made through the efforts of the director of TAIP and the governors of Damão and Diu, so that by mid-1957, Damão and Diu possessed capable terminals.
On the 21st October 1955, Capt. Norton was appointed Head of Operations and Instruction, Alferes Marreiros was appointed Head of Maintenance, Workshop and Apron, and Dr. José Jacques da Cunha Garcia da Silva was appointed to be the medical officer for TAIP.
Due to the proven unsuitability of the HERON aircraft and the increase in the number of passengers and cargo, Maj. Solano de Almeida left for England in January 1956, to procure aircraft of a larger capacity. He purchased two twin-engined Vickers VIKING planes (cap: 27 passengers; range: 1,477 nm), the first of which, CR-IAC, arrived Goa on the 13th March 1956 piloted by Maj. Solano de Almeida and Alferes Marreiros. This type of aircraft required a navigator, therefore Ten. Manuel Chorão Vinhas, a navigator with the Portuguese Air Force was pressed into service. The next VIKING, CR-IAD, arrived Goa on 17 May 1956 piloted by Capt. Norton and Capt. Palma Rego, the latter of which was also an expert navigator. Incidentally, about a year later the CR-IAD had the misfortune of crashing into the fire brigade headquarters building at Karachi airport on 2nd Nov 1957 with 24 passengers on board and was a write-off, though no casualties were reported.
In June, Capt. Palma Rego and Ten. Manuel Vinhas commenced with the first courses in navigation. Ten. Pelagio Barbosa of TAIP and Ten. Costa Afonso (an ex-infantryman who was now in civil service), were selected as the first students.
As the VIKING proved to be capable of passenger services, it now became necessary to engage and train airhostesses and other staff. A short course was organised in Goa and four local personnel were engaged. Of other Goan staff employed, two have been tracked down so far: Brígida Pinto of Aldoná started her career with TAIP (more information is awaited), and Plínio Gomes of Cansaulim was a radio-operator. The original twice-weekly flights to Karachi had now increased to daily flights.
Next, the TAIP fleet expanded with the purchase of Douglas DC-4 "Skymaster" aircraft, the first of which was flown by Maj. Solano de Almeida leaving Brownsville (Texas) on 15th Dec 1957 arriving Goa on the 17th.
By the time Gen. Vassalo e Silva came to Goa as Governor-General, TAIP already had at its disposal seven aircraft: 2 Vickers Vikings (CR-IAC & CR-IAD), 2 Douglas DC-4 "Skymaster" (CR-IAE & CR-IAF) and 3 Douglas DC6B (CR-IAG, CR-IAH & CR-IAI), which had regular services to: Goa-Damão-Diu-Karachi; Goa-Karachi-Beirut-Damascus-Lisbon; and Goa-Beira-Lourenço Marques. The HERONS were no longer required, one being ceded to Guiné and the other to Timor. The airports by now had cement-concrete runways 2kms long by 46 metres wide, with omni-directional radio beacons. The airport at Dabolim was furnished with Calvert lighting permitting nighttime landings.
Gen. Vassalo e Silva gave a big push to TAIP, planning upgrades to the airport at Dabolim, which was now named "Aeroporto General Bénard Guedes". New routes were established to provide connection from Goa to the Persian Gulf including Aden, as a good number of Goans had established themselves in these places. In a certain aspect, TAIP was pioneering stopovers in places previously unexplored by other airlines, some areas that were then inhospitable. TAIP pilots also excelled themselves as they faced adverse contingencies, not once relying on landing anywhere within the Indian Union, which could result in the instant arrest and imprisonment for the crew. TAIP also handled some charter flights transporting goods between Jeddah and Lahore.
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