When the Prime Minister’s plane crashed

Morarji Desai is remembered for various things (particularly his drinking habits and his birthday on February 29), and more seriously for being the first non-Congress Prime Minister (for what it is worth). He was also one of the few major political figures of India to escape a fatal plane crash (unlike Sardar Patel’s case in 1949 where no one was injured although the plane was written off).

A bit of legend has come up regarding this crash, citing the valiant crew of the IAF who “sacrificed their lives in order to save the passengers”. Things have not been helped because the results of inquiries into military aviation accidents are not generally released to the press.

In contrast, the DGCA now does put detailed accident reports on its website www.dgca.in

Click on the Aircraft tab and then Accident/Incident

Summaries of civil aviation accident reports going back to 1960 can also be seen there. You can even get this information back to 1950 through RTI.

Anyway, we come back to the crash of an IAF TU-124 near Jorhat on November 4, 1977.  The basic details can be seen here:

https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19771105-0

Morarji plane crash

As you can see, the front portion was badly damaged but the rest of the aircraft was relatively intact. The TU-124 was carrying 11 crew and 9 passengers. 5 of the crew in the front portion were killed while some of the passengers and other crew were injured, some seriously including the PM’s son Kanti and the then CM of Arunachal PK Thungon. The PM himself appears to have been unscathed.

Now the report of the inquiry commission headed by Air Marshal Subbiah does not seem to be available to the public. The next best reference may be this blogpost by a retired senior IAF officer:

https://tkstales.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/754/

Read it carefully. Many of the follow-up comments are of interest.

It does seem to be due to human error, but whether the crew or someone else in the IAF was responsible is still unclear.

The accident site appears to be near Takelagaon village near Bhalukmara railway station, about 10 km south-west of Jorhat airport.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@26.6644431,94.1154097,14z

Update: A first-person account written by one of the IAF officers who survived the crash It has a few more pictures:

http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/history/1970s/1364-jorhat-crash.html

Footnote: More about Morarji Desai here:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/morarji-desai-everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-him-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

 

The goose in popular culture

(Statutory warning: this is not about Arnab Goswami or any other Goswami.)

The goose may not be a particularly impressive-looking creature.

But it has contributed a lot to the English language and to popular culture. You have:

Goose pimples (Americanized to goose bumps)

Gooseberries (also known as Amla in parts of India)

Goose-necked lamps:

Goose neck lamp

Phrases: “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” or “killing the goose which lays golden eggs”.

Or threats: “I’ll cook your goose”.

Works of literature: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snow_Goose:_A_Story_of_Dunkirk (This story was quite popular in the past)

Going down the scale, we have Gus Goose, a distant relative of Donald Duck:

Gus Goose

The cricketer Gary Gilmour was nicknamed Gus because, like this character, he constantly got injured in various mishaps.

And there was Goosey Goosey Gander. As in many old nursery rhymes, there is a historical context:

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/goosey_goosey_gander.htm

The word goose is generally used for both male and female, though the correct term is gander for a male, goose for a female and gosling for the young.

And the 19th century limerick writers did not leave the goose unscathed:

Said an old Chinese mandarin.
There’s a subject I’d like to use candour in:
The geese in Pekin
Are so steeped in sin
That they’d sooner let a man in than a gander in.

Fans of Vernon Philander would be dismayed to note that there is an alternative second line which says:

“I’ve found in the course of philanderin’ “

And while the Nazis may not have invented the goose-step, they will always be associated with it:

Which was duly lampooned in this 1940s British comedy:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goose_Steps_Out

Goose is also a verb

And so is the gander

Goose Bay and Gander are small cities in eastern Canada. They have importance in the aviation industry, like when an airline had a slogan “No goose, No gander” in the late 1950s. More about this here

A 1962 article on Indian Airlines

The now-defunct magazine Flight  now has most of its old issues (from 1909 to 2005) archived as pdf in this website:

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/index.html

You can find some interesting articles pertaining to Indian aviation here. The only irritant is that each page is stored as a separate pdf file.

For instance, here is a 6-page illustrated article from early 1962 on the Indian Airlines Corporation as it was then. It is particularly interesting to see a map showing all the routes being flown then and the average number of passengers daily. Even the famous Agartala/Khowai/Kamalpur/Kailashahr flight is there on the map and gets due mention.

This should be of interest to anyone interested in the history of civil aviation in India.

Please read the following pages in order:

1962 – 0202      1962 – 0203      1962 – 0204

1962 – 0241      1962 – 0242       1962 – 0243