When Ratan Tata’s aeroplane nearly crashed; Tata shares his journey ‘from shop floor to Chairman’s seat’

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September 26, 2020 2:45 PM

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, shared a harrowing aviation incident of a time when he was on a joyride with three passengers and the plane lost the engine

Ratan Tata, JRD tata, Tata motorsRatan Tata gathered three willing passengers for a joy ride, but soon the engine of the plane went kaput. Img: Reuters

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, shared a harrowing aviation incident of a time when he was on a joyride with three passengers and the plane lost the engine. He also recalled how from the shop floor he made his way to the chairman’s seat. In the promotional clips of National Geographic’s Mega Icons Season 2 episode, which is set to air on September 27, Ratan Tata recalled that he was 17 years old that time, the allowed age for a pilot’s license. During that time, it was not possible for him to rent a plane all by himself, so he talked to his classmates about flying, and volunteered to fly them if they shared the cost.

How Ratan Tata escaped a plane crash?

Ratan Tata gathered three willing passengers for a joy ride, but soon the engine of the plane went kaput. “First the plane shook like hell and then the engine quit,” Ratan Tata recalled, adding that the propeller stopped turning. Tata said they were without an engine and he had to focus on how to get down. He said that his passengers were very quiet and nobody said a word till they got down from the plane. Making his way out of the tough weather, Tata added that at that very moment, losing an engine in a light plane was not an issue that plane will crash. “It depends on how high you are, enough gliding time to pick a place to land,” Tata said. Even as the plane was about to crash, Ratan Tata remained calm and maintained his sense of balance. “You couldn’t get excited. ‘No engine! No engine!'” Tata concludes while laughing.

How Ratan Tata made it to the Chairman’s seat?

Ratan Tata recalled that during the initial days he worked at an architect’s office in Los Angeles. But he had to come back to India because his grandmother was ill and she continued to ail for 4-5 years. To remain close to her, Tata didn’t go back and worked on the shop floor of TELCO (now Tata Motors). Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy (JRD) Tata, Indian aviator, entrepreneur, chairman of Tata Group and the shareholder of Tata Sons, told Ratan Tata that he can’t just sit around, “You need to be involved,” said JRD. To be placed on the shop floor in TELCO, Ratan Tata felt it to be a waste of time, as there was nothing really well-planned. Ratan Tata made his own training program and watched material as it went through the various stages of manufacture. “In the hindsight, it was the most valuable six months that I could have had, as I was on the shop floor with no difference between me and the next person,” Tata recalled. After many years, Ratan Tata became the chairman of TELCO. There was not a situation where somebody could fool him because he had a very good background, he said.

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