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.

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.