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IAF Veteran Squadron Leader Dalip Singh Majithia Passes Away at 103

Squadron Leader Dalip Singh Majithia, the oldest living pilot of the Indian Air Force, passed away at the age of 103. Majithia’s life was a testament to a lifetime of service, adventure, and a deep love for aviation.

Early Life and Joining the Indian Air Force

Born on July 27, 1920, in Shimla, Majithia followed in the footsteps of his uncle, Surjeet Singh Majithia, and joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) volunteer reserve in 1940 during World War II. His family had a rich history, with his father, Kirpal Singh Majithia, being a prominent figure in Punjab during the British rule, and his grandfather, Sundar Singh Majithia, being associated with the Chief Khalsa Diwan and one of the founders of Khalsa College Amritsar.

The Journey of a Pilot

Majithia’s journey as a pilot began at the Karachi Flying Club, where he learned the basic nuances of flying on a Gypsy Moth aircraft. He then joined the 4th Pilot’s Course at the Initial Training School (ITA) in Walton, Lahore, in August 1940. Three months later, he was awarded the best pilot trophy and was posted to the No. 1 Flying Training School in Ambala to continue his advanced flying training.

Wartime Experiences and Accolades

In March 1943, Majithia joined No. 6 Squadron in the rank of flying officer under the command of the legendary ‘Baba’ Mehar Singh. In January 1944, he was posted as the Flight Commander of No. 3 Squadron, flying Hurricanes. During this time, he flew extensively in Kohat, where he had the opportunity to serve alongside Air Marshal Asghar Khan, a future Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force, and Air Marshal Randhir Singh, who later received the Vir Chakra in 1948.

Posting to Burma and Meeting his Wife

In his next posting, Majithia was stationed in Burma as the Flight Commander of No. 4 Squadron. After a long bout of illness that kept him out of active flying, he served a stint at the Air Headquarters and later in Melbourne, Australia, as the IAF’s Liaison Officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Joan Sanders Majithia, who was a code breaker in the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service during the Second World War.

Retirement and Continued Passion for Aviation

Majithia retired from the Indian Air Force on March 18, 1947, and settled down at his family’s estate in Sardarnagar, near Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh. However, his love for aviation did not wane. In 1949, he made history by conducting the first landing of an aircraft in Kathmandu, Nepal, on an unprepared piece of land, which is now the site of the country’s international airport.

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