A brief history of the DC-3 aircraft in Pakistan
After the Second World War the ubiquitous DC-3 was available around the World in large numbers and ex military versions were often used to give airlines a fresh start in civil airline operations. Pakistan was no different. On the 14th of August 1947, when Pakistan was born, a fledgling airline, Orient Air which had recently been formed in Calcutta, shifted its location to Karachi in the new country, Pakistan. Apart from a couple of Beech 18s the main fleet was made up of C-47s or military versions of the DC-3.
Pakistan was divided into two parts: West and East Pakistan. It was vital to establish an air link between the two wings of the country so Orient flew their DC-3s, beginning the service on the 1st October 1947 across India (with stops on the way) from Karachi to the East Wing. The next day Orient began flights from Karachi to major cities in West Pakistan and similarly East Pakistan cities were linked by DC-3 services.
By 2nd February 1949 Orient had twenty DC-3s and began flights to the Northern Areas in Kashmir to Gilgit and Skardu. These flights were flown through valleys in high mountains where the loss of an engine could be fatal to a fully loaded DC-3. In 1955 Orient was amalgamated with smaller operators to form Pakistan International Airlines which became the Flag Carrier of the country. The fleet then consisted of eleven DC-3s and two Convair 240s. Later the Northern flights were operated on a ‘Direct Route’ over a mountain range to descend in the Indus Valley. Typically a DC-3 loaded to 26900 lbs All Up Weight (an optimistic weight that was calculated to get the DC-3 to a landing field from over the mountains should an engine power loss be experienced at mid point) would be flown at 17500ft on the outward journey and when the plane was lighter on the return at 18500ft. In the mid 1960s the DC-3 routes were expanded in Pakistan in an ‘Airbus Service’ that joined towns in Baluchistan and Sind and also westward along the Mekran Coast to Jiwani on the Pakistan Iran Border. Over the years of the DC-3 operations in PIA (1955-1967) five of the aircraft were lost in accidents –a price that was paid for the pioneering of routes in a new country by an outstanding aircraft that could practically go anywhere and do anything.
In 1947, at the birth of Pakistan, the Pakistan Air Force acquired a few C-47 planes from the Indian Air Force as part of a distribution of equipment when the two countries were divided. These aircraft were primarily used for air drops to army outposts in the Pakistan administered part of Kashmir. In the early days after partition an undeclared war was fought for the possession of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. A C-47 on a supply mission was intercepted on its return leg in the Indus Valley near Chilas. The interceptors were two Indian Air Force Hawker Tempest 11 fighters –a radial engine derivative of the formidable Tempest V that entered RAF service near the end of the Second World War. The fighters ordered the Dakota to land at an Indian controlled airfield but Flying Officer Dogar, the aircraft captain, ignored them. He also ignored the warning burst of four 20mm cannons fired across his nose. The Tempests then came in for a full scale attack on the C-47 that was now taking avoiding action by turning and flying very close to the mountain sides. A burst of cannon fire hit the Dakota and killed one of the drop- assist crewmen. The pilot had his navigator stand in the astrodome and call out impending attacks by kicking the pilot on the shoulder so that he could take violent avoiding action.
Dropping to almost zero altitude over the Indus River and using a combination of dumping half flaps and rudder skids prevented the C-47 from taking any more hits. The one-sided duel lasted 25 minutes and the Indian pilots gave up and flew away. Most transport planes would have gone down after being hit by cannon fire but the doughty DC-3 flew on and brought its crew home. Flying Officer Dogar was awarded the Pakistan equivalent of the DFC.
Some of my personal experiences with this wonderful aeroplane are told in my first book on my aviation career ‘Come Fly with Me—Propellers.’
Captain ‘Johnny’ Sadiq (retd.)
A review of Johnny's book will appear shortly on the the Society's pages