Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fascinating Naval Aviation Museum at Bogmalo

Now that we have traversed and partly perused through the local history of Vasco and Mormugao, let us now take a look at the areas of educational entertainment that we can visit in the South Goa. In Vasco the closest and the best choice is the Naval Aviation Museum in Bogmalo.

Aircrafts have always been a fascination for not only children, but adults too. We are aware of the Dabolim Airport and the many flights that land and take off from there, though this airport is under the control of the Indian Navy as defence installation. In the early 1980’s, there were barely 4 to 5 commercial flights landing here in a day’s time. This airstrip has seen many a flight of the Portuguese Passenger Airlines, landing and taking off at an aerodrome and has survived and developed into a modern highly sophisticated airport catering to the supersonic jets.
When it was constructed, it was meant for Portuguese military aircrafts and later the TAIP and TAP Passenger planes. During liberation, on December 18, 1961 at around 11 a.m., the Indian Air Force bombers led by a Goan air vice marshall Eric Wilmot Pinto took off from the Sambra Airport near Belgaum and dropped almost 63,000 pounds of bombs on its runway. Their mission was to put the runway out of action, without damaging any other property. There were two Portuguese passenger planes on the ground, the last two to take off from Portuguese Goan soil. When the Portuguese soldiers temporarily patched the runway, the planes took off for Karachi enroute to Portugal with passengers. It is said that these planes was intercepted by the IAF before crossing the Indian border but were allowed to proceed after the pilots informed that they were carrying only women and children.

Then onwards, this runway and airport has seen the fighter aircrafts of the Indian Navy land and take off on many occasions. In the 1973 Indo-Pak War, there was a scare that the Dabolim Airport was on the enemy target. At that time there used to be blackouts in the Goan region wherein no one was allowed to put on any type of illumination in their residences, except with windows closed. Vehicles had to paint their headlights black and leave a small one inch circle for penetration of light. Though it was rumoured, that Pakistani planes were chased off over the sea when they tried to attack, nothing untoward happened.

Dabolim Airport was also the main base for mentoring the planes that operated from on-board India’s, now decommissioned, aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. The initial aircrafts on board the INS Vikrant were Alize Torpedo Bombers and Sea Hawks. Later these planes gave way to the Kiran Aircrafts, which then made way for the highly sophisticated vertical and short take-off and landing (V/STOL) aircraft known as Sea Harrier in December 1983. These were bought from the Royal Navy, UK and are also called ‘Carrier Borne Jump Jets’, since they could land and take off, from a moving aircraft carrier, at sea.
28/04/18 Sanjeev V Sardesai/Navhind Times