Shillong ( Meghalaya), July 27 : The oldest surviving fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force turns 103 today , 27 July 2023.
Squadron Leader Dalip Singh Majithia ( Retd ) in his 7-year career flew 1100 hours on 13 types of aircraft and saw action in World War II over Burma. He was born on 27 July 1920 at Skiplin Villa, Simla. Dalip joined the 4th Pilot Course, the first one to be conducted at the Initial Training School (ITS) at Walton, Lahore on 1 Aug 1940 to train on the TigerMoths along with 71 others. He flew his first sortie on 5 August and went solo on 22 August.
By the end of Nov 1940, he had completed 58 hours on the Tiger Moth and had bagged the best pilot trophy. Yet to earn his wings though, he was sent to No.1 Flying Training School at Ambala. He flew approximately 150 hours on Wapiti, Audax & Hawker Hart aircraft doing Map reading, night approaches, loops, stalls, Cross country ferry, aerobatics, formation, force landings, dives & instrument flying earning coveted wings on 24 May 1941.
The officer was commissioned into the Indian Air Force in 1940, joining No.1 Flight (Coastal Defence) based at Madras. He retired from the air force in 1947 after serving with several establishments, including a course at No.1 Air Gunnery School, postings at No.3 Squadron, No.4 Squadron and No.6 Squadron and later flew as a private pilot. He was also the first pilot to land a plane in the Kathmandu valley in 1949 in an aircraft that his family had acquired. Today, the area where Squadron Leader Majithia made his first landing is the site of the present Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu.
Of all the aircraft he flew, he loved the Hurricane the most. The Hurricane was the first combat aircraft to go beyond 300 mph in level flight and was extremely versatile. More than 300 variants of the Hurricane were supplied to the IAF between 1942 and 1944. The fighter went on to become the backbone of operations in the Assam and Burma campaigns. His love for flying did not wane, he flew the L-5s his family had bought & later acquired two Beechcraft Bonanza, flying till 1979.He flew for the last time in January 1979.
After initially being assigned to Coast Defence Flights where he flew maritime patrols over the Bay of Bengal, he was re-assigned to No.6 Squadron, Indian Air Force, which was shortlisted to operate one of the most advanced aircraft in the world at the time, the legendary Hawker Hurricane. Dalip Singh Majithia would go on to serve in East India and fly over the Burma front under the command of the legendary Baba Meher Singh, (Later Air Commodore Mehar Singh, MVC, DSO ) who was honoured with a Distinguished Service Order during the Second World War and went on to get a Maha Vir Chakra for his role in the 1947-48 war with Pakistan.
With the surrender of the Japanese and the Second World War winding down, Dalip Singh Majithia was selected to be a part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF) and moved to BCOF Headquarters in Melbourne, where he met Joan Sanders (whose father was with the British Indian Army). On 18 Feb 1947, he married Joan.
Joan Sanders passed away in 2021. Fitness has been a key part of Dalip Singh Majithia’s life, Golf a lasting passion. He remains active in sports, especially Golf, & spends his time between Delhi, Rudrapur & Gorakhpur.