In this piece, we will look at the aircraft types operated by Indian Airlines throughout its existence. But first, let’s take a closer look at the rise of Indian Airlines, followed by its merger with Air India.
Indian Airlines (IC) came to be on August 1st, 1953, after the Indian government passed legislation to nationalize the entire aviation commercial aviation sector in the country. IC was formed by merging eight smaller domestic airlines like Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga Airlines, Indian National Airways, and Air Services of India. The domestic operations of flag carrier Air India were also merged with the new carrier. Thus, Indian Airlines became India’s premier domestic and regional airline, while Air India focused on international routes.
The rise and fall of Indian Airlines
After its formation in 1953, Indian Airlines began operations with inherited aircraft like the Douglas DC-3 and DC-4. The airline prospered in the next couple of decades due to lack of competition after the nationalization of all airlines. Indian Airlines continued expanding its fleet with new aircraft types like the Vickers Viscount and the Hawker Siddeley HS748. The latter was manufactured in India by state-owned aerospace firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Indian Airlines was formed in 1953 by merging eight different domestic airlines. Photo: Getty Images
Indian Airlines began operating jetliners with the Sud Aviation Caravelle in the mid-1960s, but the addition of modern airlines like the Boeing 737 didn’t happen until a few years. Next came some widebodies such as the Airbus A300 that joined the IC fleet throughout the late 70s and early 80s.
The 1990s presented a massive challenge to IC. As the Indian government repealed all regulations that restricted private players in the commercial aviation industry, competition began to rise. New airlines like Jet Airways and Air Sahara were formed that began gradually salami-slicing out of IC’s market share. The 2000s saw India’s aviation sector prosper, but legacy carriers like Indian Airlines and Air India were left behind with a small share of the pie.
Low-cost airlines like SpiceJet and IndiGo made it difficult for old-timers to survive, and eventually, the government decided to merge Indian Airlines with Air India in 2007. The merger was completed by February 26th, 2011.
The rise of low-cost carriers in Indian aviation made it difficult for legacy carriers to survive. Photo: Getty Images
Indian Airlines’ historic fleet
According to data obtained from ATDB.aero, Indian Airlines operated the following aircraft throughout its lifetime:
2 x Vickers Viscount 700
14 x Vickers Viscount 742D
12 x Vickers VC.1 Viking
10 x Fokker F27-100 Friendship
5 x Fokker F27-200 Friendship
2 x Fokker F27-400 Friendship
1 x Fokker F27-600 Friendship
26 x Hawker Siddeley HS 748 (manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)
12 x Sud Aviation Caravelle
74 x Douglas DC-3 Dakotas
6 x Douglas DC-4
3 x Tupolev Tu-154B
19 x Airbus A300
2 x Airbus A330-200
36 x Boeing 737-200
2 x Boeing 757-200
6 x Airbus A319ceo
54 x Airbus A320ceo
4 x Airbus A321ceo
In total, Indian Airlines has operated around 280 airframes while in operation. Post its merger with Air India in 2011, Indian Airlines’ aircraft were transferred to the latter. A small number of the transferred airframes are still actively flying commercial flights with the flag carrier, but others have either been scrapped or are not airworthy anymore.