Yours truly is back in Mysore after a rollicking good trip to Goa (see my previous blog). My wife and I were traveling to visit Vasco, on our rented Honda Activa when we chanced upon a sign board. It mentioned that a Naval Aviation Museum, first of its kind in India and the only one in Asia, was located on Majorda Beach Road.
I know much about the Indian Navy and that they have a Naval Air Arm with helicopters, transport aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft and fighter aircraft such as the Sea Harrier jump jets and so on. What I had never known is that there was a Museum established to showcase the history of Indian Naval Aviation.
For those that are driving from Vasco to any point south on National Highway 17A, there is a turn off road near Dabolim Airport (the only one in Goa) with a sign board that says “Majorda Beach Road”. Take that and keep driving right around the airport perimeter wall and you will be well guided by signboards all along the way to a compound. Entering it, you will be asked to buy tickets for Rs.15 per adult. It’s worth the price of the ticket and more. There are some old Aircraft that used to be in the service of the Navy. There are guides to explain, if one needs a guide. Otherwise, there are information boards next to each Aircraft. These information boards present a comprehensive technical and operational detail of the Aircraft including the time it entered into service and the time that it was phased out.
Some of the older Aircraft on display at the site (outdoors) is the huge Super Constellation (or super connie as it used to be called). This Aircraft with the four big radial engines and four big propellers (not jets!!), in its heydays, used to be the long distance Aircraft carrying one hundred passengers between, say Bombay and London. Air India had inducted them in the early 60’s and before phasing them out, they entered Naval Service, attached with surveillance equipment, to carry out reconnaissance flights. I remember my granddad that went to London by sea those days and returned on the super connie. Travel in an Airline those days used to be first class, there was none of this low cost carrier stuff where you have to buy bottles of water, peanuts and samosas on board. Those were the elegant days of travel. You can actually climb into the airplane and walk inside and even visit the cockpit. Pilots of those days had very little navigational assistance that we have these days and they had to fly in all kinds of weather with very few instruments to help them. With a modern cockpit, it is virtually impossible to get lost and a pilots work load is far less.
There are other Aircraft that were inducted into the Navy including the Alize, a French Aircraft that was propeller driven and used to launch off the Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant. There are trainer Aircraft, Helicopters and even the currently used Sea Harrier VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing).
There is an indoor museum that has rooms exhibiting armaments used, aviator anecdotes hanging on the walls, pictorial depictions of various stages of establishment of the Naval Aviation in India and so on.
At the end of the tour, do stop by at the small shed snack shop aptly named as the “cockpit café”. Idlis and Dosas are available!!!
I have twice visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, considered the Mecca for aviation buffs, located in Washington D.C. USA and seen hundreds of airplanes on display, visited the Boeing Air and Space Museum in Seattle a few times, visited many air shows. While this museum is very small and limited displays compared to those mentioned above, it is still a good attempt to showcase at least the Indian Navy’s history and capabilities.
There is always room and scope for improvements and these may be done if enough visitors show interest in visiting this museum. There’s none other in India or anywhere else in Asia that showcases Naval Aviation solely. Go to Goa definitely but don’t just do the beaches, churches, temples. The Sun, Sand and Sea are fabulous but there’s more to Goa than meets the eye. I would encourage people to visit the Indian Naval Aviation museum to understand what we have in this country and how things came about.
For an educational and fun afternoon, the museum is a “not to be missed” on your Goa itinerary. Learn, enjoy and have fun in the Sun.