April 14, 2024

MiG-23BN can be seen near Terminal 2 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport at Palam. The airfield underwent extensive re-building between 2006 and 2009. The result has been that many derelict aircraft have been 'culled'.  But the MiG-23BN is a new addition that will be on permanent display. 

A Satellite Image of Palam Airfield shows its main runway alon with the old Cross runways on top. The Indian Air Force Museum and Air Force Station Palam are situated on the top right of the image and the Domestic terminal will be in the right center. The horizontal shorter runway is the 27-09. While the longest runway is the 28-10.

The airfield now bears no resemblence after the reconstruction.

Photo Courtesy: Space Imaging

Palam airfield’s history dates back to the Second World War, where it was used to supplement the main Delhi airfield of Safdarjung. In the fifties and sixties, Palam was the center of extensive flying by the IAF. Tempest Squadrons and Vampire Squadrons used to operate for years.

Gradually the civilian presence in the airfield increased and currently both the New Delhi Domestic Airport and the International Airport terminals are based there. To the north of the airfield is the Indian Air Force Station, as well as the Indian Air Force Museum. The south eastern part of the airfield is maintained by the Aviation Research Center.

An aerial photograph taken by an airline passenger shows the vintage aircraft of the IAF Museum collection stored outside. The aircraft on Top right is an Illyushin 14, while the other two are C-47 Dakotas. These three aircraft were later joined by a DHC-4 Caribou. Click to Enlarge

Besides the IAF Museums collection, which includes two Dakotas, one Illyushin-14 and a DHC-4 Caribou parked in open pens by the taxi way, there are a number of civilian warbirds that are believed to be based in Palam. There was atleast one airworthy DC-3 operated by the JK Group in the early 1990s from Palam.

In 2002, atleast two previously unrecorded Dakota airframes were observed lying in the airfield. One was a derelict, while the other appeared complete. More details of Dakotas appeared when Charles Falk took photographs of two DC-3s at Palam in January 2004.

One of the Dakotas, VT-AUT belonged to the Border Security Force. The aircraft is missing its outer wings, the engines and also the tailplane elevators. It was formerly with the USAAF as 42-93771, thus dating its origin to 1942.The BSF at one point of time had four Dakotas on its establishment. And all the four could be seen lying unused at Palam in the early 1990s.

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Two C-47 Dakotas that have been photographed in a derelict stage by Charles Falk. VT-CTV on the left, cn 10178 is a National Airports Authority aircraft. VT-AUT (cn 13720) on the right belongs to the Border Security Force. Clicking on any of the images will open a single photograph that shows both. These two aircraft are probably seen in Google Earth, though in different locations around the airfield.

The other aircraft is VT-CTV, on the roll of the erstwhile National Airports Authority, currently known as Airports Authority of India. This aircraft looks much more complete even though its rudder has deteriorated to its internal structure. The aircraft was previously registered in the USA as NC63364 and was used for Calibration testing.

The Dakotas were not the only aircraft operated by the NAA. It also has three HS-748s on roll. Two of these VT-EFQ and VT-EFR were photographed by Simon Watson previously as seen below. A fourth HS-748 belonging to the Border Security Force is also stored. This particular HS-748 does not have its propellors and probably has not flown for some years.

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The National Airports Authority’s fleet of HS-748s that seemed to have been grounded at Delhi Airport are captured in these pictures by Simon Watson. The Condition of VT-EFR on the left seems to be much worse than VT-EFQ on the right. Photo Courtesy: Simon Watson
A fourth HS-748 that hasn’t flown in many years at Palam is this unmarked aircraft without any propellors. It is speculated that it belongs to the BSF as its registration resembled VT-EIR. Photo Courtesy: B Harry Click to Enlarge

Palam airfield has a long history and probably has a few more derelicts that are not listed here. But till someone does a thorough survey of the airfield, the listing is not yet complete.

The airfield underwent extensive re-building between 2006 and 2009. The result has been that many derelict aircraft have been ‘culled’.  The Avros, and Dakotas have been sold off as part of the effort. It is believed one of the Dakotas has been preserved and is on display at the Flight Kitchen. The aircraft is visible through Google Maps. However the second Dakota possibly went into private hands. An Il-14 aircraft that was being used for Fire Department Training was carted away at that time.

The Airport however was given a MiG-23BN aircraft to be put up on display and it is visible near Terminal 2. Trinidade Gois recently took a photo of the bird, framing it against the ATC tower still under contruction.

MiG-23BN SM234 on pylon at the IGI Airport. Photo Courtesy: Trinidade Gois




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