March 5, 2024
Honorary Air Commodore Vijaypat Singhania's personal Dakota is displayed at the Hospital in Thane.

Click to Enlarge Douglas DC-3 Dakota [VT-CEB] is preserved near the Singhania Hospital in Thane City, north of Mumbai.

To the north of Bombay city is the smaller satellite township of Thane. Thane city was the first place in the country from which a Railway train journey originated way back in the mid 1800s. (Dont remember the year!). Its quite an old city and is situated 30 kilometers north east of Mumbai on the western coast of India.

Close up of the front fuselage shows the proper care taken in its preservation. Note the jacks on which the undercarriage rests, preserving the shape of the tyres.

Thane’s claim to fame on the warbird map of India is that it houses a World War 2 Vintage DC-3 Dakota belonging to Mr. Vijaypat Singhania of the Raymonds group. The Dakota, with the civilian registration VT-CEB originally had the USAF serial number 43-49230. The aircraft’s construction number being 26491. Purchased by Mr. Vijaypat Singhania , the Chairman of JK Raymonds group and a Honorary Air Commodore of the Indian Air Force, the Dakota was flown as private chartered aircraft till the mid 90s when it was retired and bought to Thane for display. The aircraft was put up on display at the Singhania Hospital, a high tech hospital run by the Raymonds group.

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The Port engine cowling and propeller as seen in these photos were burnt by the mob last year in the infamous Thane riots. Fortunately the damaged parts have been fixed and restored

Disaster struck, however in August 2001, when the demise of a local political leader at the the Singhania Hospital triggered off riots by the activists of the political party. The mob ransacked the entire Hospital destroying all the equipment. Once the destruction was complete, the mob came outside and pounced on the Dakota. Thankfully the damage was limited to gasoline poured onto one of the propellers and the fire burning the propellor to cinders. The rest of the aircraft fortunately escaped the damage. Mr. Vijaypat Singhania was shocked to hear the news of the damage done to the hospital and especially to his ‘baby’ Dakota. His press statements at that time conveyed the message that he would leave the damaged Dakota as symbolise the violence that broke out on that day.

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The Dak sports an unusual sunflower emblem on its fin. We assume it is the logo of the “Safari Airways”, an aircraft charter outfit run by Mr. Singhania earlier.

Recently when I was returning from the United States, I made a stopover at Bombay, and stayed at Kapil’s place. One of the agenda for the day was to check out the aircraft which was quite near to the place where we were staying.

When we drove over the the area, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Dakota showed no visible damage and it seemed to have been restored completely by Mr. Singhania. The aircraft did not have any registration markings and bore the “Safari Airways” markings.

Side profile of the Dak shows the now legendary lines of the Dakota. Military cargo versions had the large two piece door to facilitate loading of the Jeeps from the rear. Click to Enlarge

After spending time photographing the aircraft at close quarters and generally admiring the beauty of the aircraft , me and Kapil had a doubt – How did Mr. Singhania restore the aircraft back to its pristine glory? Maybe one day we will find out!. Kapil certainly promised to follow up. Hopefully we should get the gen!

Related Links:
News report and picture from Tribune of the Dakota which was damaged in the Thane Riots
-Warbirds of India’s report on the incident

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