Airstrips: the scratch for subsequent development
The British Government of India had built military airstrips near Tejgaon during the Second World War for operating warplanes towards the war fields of Kohima and other Burmese war threats. Tejgaon Airport became the first airport to operate civil aviation in the then East Pakistan and it was also a station of the Pakistan Air Force. A number of other British built military airstrips in Bangladesh territory were also converted into civil airports – some during Pakistan period and some after Liberation. A few others were converted to STOL (Short Take-off and Landing) ports some years ago. And some are still left alone. The airstrips not yet converted to any civil airport of any kind are at Feni, Rajendrapur, Pahar Kanchanpur, Chakaria and Rasulpur.
The Royal Indian Air Force and Tejgaon Airport
Soon after the Second World War broke out, the British authority felt the need of constructing the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) stations in Dhaka and other vulnerable places in Bangladesh territory. The construction of Tejgaon Airport at a place named Dainodda started in 1941; and the building of a landing strip at Kurmitola (Balurghat) started at about the same time. The airstrips at Tejgaon and Kurmitola had military fighter plane landing facilities and the British Air Force used the airstrips for safe up‑keeping their aircrafts. There was also an American air force detachment here during the war period. The first RIAF light fighter landed on the under‑construction runway of Tejgaon at the beginning of 1943 and after development of the airport facilities, it became the first civil airport of the present area of Bangladesh.
The Orient Airways
Apart from the British air force, the Ispahani group and its partners used Tejgaon Airport for operation of an airliner named Orient Airways established by them in 1946. In 1947, the Orient Airways operated two types of carriers from Tejgaon Airport. These were a DC‑3 (Dakota) and a DHC‑6 (Twin Otter).
Pakistan International Airlines
Very soon Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was formed as the national flag carrier to fly within country and abroad. Consequently, the government took over both military and civil aviation and made them public sector activity and the Orient Airways had to close its operation.
Airports and aviation during Pakistan period
In 1948, the government had established
Eastern Pakistan Flying Club to train local youths in the field of piloting.
In 1956, a branch of the Flying Wing of the Plant Protection Department was
established in East Pakistan. Tejgaon Airport became gradually busy with
flights of these agencies as well of PIA, which had acquired piston engine
aircrafts like Dakotas and Convairs, and super constellations converted
turbo propeller type of aircrafts like Viscounts and Fokker. Later, jet
aircrafts like Boeing, Comet and DC‑8 were added to the fleet. The airport
also served foreign airlines including British Airways and Pan American
Airways. PIA started its Boeing jet services in 1960. The Department of
Civil Aviation and the Airport Development Agency had to upgrade Tejgaon
Airport for accommodating traffic in accordance with the international
standards. The domestic airports in operation in the then East Pakistan were
located at Jessore, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazaar, Thakurgaon, Ishwardi and
Comilla. In the year 1966, the Government took a project to construct an
airport at Kurmitola around the British built airstrip, and the works went
on that came to a holt in 1971 due the liberation war.