Tributes were paid to Maneck Dalal, the aviation pioneer behind international expansion of Air India, who recently passed away here. Speaking at a condolence meeting held at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan here, India’s High Commissioner to the UK Y K Sinha described Dalal, 98, as a “legendary figure” for the immense contribution he has made in the field of aviation by starting the first flight of Air India from Heathrow to New Delhi and Bombay in 1948.
He died on March 6 this year.
At the age of 29 and at the behest of his hero JRD Tata, the young post graduate from Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, started Air India Office in London in 1948. He had joined Tata Airlines (Air India) in 1946 and was its Manager in New Delhi, when he had the opportunity to meet Mahatma Gandhi in 1946-1947.
Two years later he was sent to London. Dalal was truly one of the builders of Air India and was its regional director from 1959-1977.
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When he started the twice weekly operations for Air India in 1948 in London, only eight airlines operated out of Heathrow Airport, which was only a collection of huts – one of them being Dalal’s office, the Times newspaper said in its recent obituary column.
Dalal then joined the Tatas and became Managing Director of Tata Ltd, London 1977-1988 and Vice Chairman 1988-1989.
He also served on the board of Tata Sons the group holding company. He was also Chairman of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London between 1973 and 2011 and was instrumental in making the Bhavan the best Indian Art and Cultural centre outside India.
Describing Dalal as “dear old friend, ” Joginder Sanger, who succeeded Dalal as Chairman of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan said “I am yet to come across a better person in the UK than Dalal.
I have met and seen an angel in reality on this earth.
“Lord Navnit Dholakia, OBE PC, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and Patron of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, UK, said “For me Maneck Dalal was Kohinoor (rare gem).There are people who make India great and Maneck Dalal was one of them.”
Lord Karan Bilimoria, educationist and founder chairman of the Cobra Beers, said “Maneck Dalal was remarkable for what he did and what he achieved. His life has been inspirational for all of us.”
In a message, Ratan Tata said “Maneck Dalal will always be remembered for launching Air India from the UK. He was an outstanding leader who achieved his objectives with quietness and humility.”
Lord Ranbir Suri, former Executive member of the Bhavan said “Bhavan was his second home. His devotion and guidance was instrumental in Bhavan achieving what it did. Dalal ji was a man born to serve.”
Malcolm M Deboo, President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe said “what struck me most was his immense politeness and his knack of putting everyone at ease. He also earned praise for organising the ‘Festival of India’ in London in 1980s.”
Tara Naidu, Regional Manager of Air India in the UK, Ireland and Europe, said “Maneck Dalal played a major role in Air India’s expansion in the UK.”
ohn R Marr, Vice chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in the UK, said “Maneck Dalal was incredibly polite and Humane.”
Govind Lalwani, Retired Air India staff, described Maneck Dalal as “unique and extraordinarily gentle. He was a rare individual who touched the heart of so many.”
M N Nandakumara, Executive Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in the UK, said “Maneck Dalal was kidness personified, intellectually honest and never spoke ill of anyone.”
Caroline Dalal, Daughter of Maneck Dalal said “Our father was proud of being an Indian and he wanted India and Indians to showcase the best.”
Suzie Dalal, another Daughter of Dalal said, “Dad would have been honoured to be here. He was very proud of his Indian roots, proud of being a Parsi and he was a loving father.”