14 Oct 2009
For years, we thought that the state of Orissa was barren in terms of warbirds. Despite the presence of an engine manufacturing plant at Koraput and a hush hush aviation base at Charbatia, no confirmed reports of warbirds ever existed.
At least till we stumbled on an entry on Wikimapia. The entry marked out an area in the capital of Bhubaneswar and it mentioned simply that a Beech 18 is on display at Hotel Mayflower. Subsequent research in the various tourist guides confirmed that the posh Hotel Mayflower in the center of the city had a World War Two era Beech 18 on display inside the Hotel grounds.
Fortunately for us, the first photograph of this bird was provided by Gireesh Kumar, who took the opportunity to pose by it. The Beech is in a good condition – though its identity remains a mystery for now, I would expect more pics of this bird to emerge and ultimately find out its history.
Updated : 1 January 2023
In December 2022, the mystery of the identity of this Beech 18 was finally solved. We were helped by an IAF veteran and an ex-Air India pilot,, Sqn Ldr (Retd) O P SIkka. He happened to visit Bhubaneswar and stayed at the Mayfair hotel. The Hotel has updated the display with an information board on the aircraft, finally revealing its identity as VT-CNY.
As per the board, VT-CNY was owned by the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj, a princely state in Orissa. The Maharaja was an honorary officer in the Indian Air Force as well. The Maharaja donated the aircraft to the State Government in 1958 and it was used for a few years before it was sold to the Cama Aviation Company and later to Coal India Ltd. Coal India Ltd auctioned the aircraft off as scrap in 1996 and it was bought by a Scrap dealer. It was here that the Mayfair group stepped in and restored the aircraft and put it on display.
Of course, once we started writing this up, we discovered that all this information already existed – as in the 2016 Facebook post by the Mayfair Hotel Group itself.. Ah well!
At the time of writing, this is one of the two Beech 18s in existence in India and the only one preserved in a good condition that will survive decades.