The Madras Air Taxi Service commenced the first commercial air service to Vizag with the inaugural flight between Madras and Calcutta via Vizag in a de Havilland Fox Moth aircraft on 10 February 1934. The flight left Madras at 6.00 am and arrived in Vizag at 11.00 am. Passengers on board were the founders of the company, Raja I.V. Kumar Rao and Raja Bhujunga Rao. The pilot was Mr. H. Tyndale-Biscoe, a chief instructor of the Madras Flying Club.
The Madras Air Taxi Service claimed to be the first of its kind in India with the intention of taking passengers from Madras or elsewhere to any part of India and Burma. Flights were arranged from Madras and to places where there were suitable landing grounds.
The company obtained three Fox Moth airplanes (a single-seater, a two-seater and a three-seater where passengers were seated in a small enclosed cabin and the pilot was in an open cockpit behind) and proposed to arrange special all round India trips at special rates. The one-way fare from Madras to Vizagapatam was Rs 125 and Madras – Calcutta one-way was Rs 225 and return was Rs 405. The company offered life insurance of Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000.
The company’s expansion plans included services to Agra, Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Bangalore, Baroda, Bellary, Benares, Bombay, Calcutta, Cawnpore, Chanda, Delhi, Gaya, Hyderabad, Jhansi, Jodhpur, Jubbulpore, Karachi, Lucknow, Nagpur, Poona, Quilon, Raipur, Sholapur, Trichinopoly, and Vizagapatam. The Madras Air Taxi Service route was from Madras to Calcutta with stops at Gannavaram (Bezwada), Vizagapatam and Puri with connections to east- and west-bound services of Indian Trans-Continental and Indian National Airways.
The inaugural flight between Madras and Calcutta via Vizag on 10 February 1934 was part of an experimental twice-weekly service that was short-lived and discontinued on 31 March 1934 and aircraft certifications were transferred to the Madras Flying Club.
Aircraft did not again make an appearance over Vizag until late 1934 when an aeroplane ordered by the Maharajah of Vizianagram arrived. On October 21, 1934, Mr.Tyndale-Biscoe, took delivery of an Avro Commodore aircraft for a ferry flight from Heston (UK) for Madras. He was delivering this aeroplane to the Maharajah of Vizianagram, who had recently learned to fly at the Madras Flying Club. The Maharajah initially ordered two Avro Commodores and this first aircraft was found to be unsuitable for Indian conditions and was returned to Britain and scrapped. The Maharajah had established an airfield at Cheepurupalli and chartered Tiger Moth aircraft from the Madras Flying Club from time to time, and one such aircraft crashed on a beach near Waltair and was irreparably damaged. There were no casualties.
There is a sad foot note to the short-lived Madras Air Taxi Service as, on 25 August 1935, one of the aircraft carrying the owner Raja IV Kumar Rao, a Madras Flying Club instructor pilot named Everett and a manager of the Imperial Tobacco Company, crashed at Chowtapalem near Nellore and all occupants lost their lives.
This article on Vizag’s first air service has been written by John Castellas whose family belonged to Vizag for 5 generations. Educated at St Aloysius, migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1966, former General Manager Engineering at Boeing & Qantas Airways, in retirement Lecturers in Aviation Management at Swinburne University and is a Vizag aficionado.