Air India : The History of The Aircraft Fleet

In 1948, Air India International, then owned by Tata Sons Ltd., was granted status to operate international services from India as the designated flag carrier. The Government of India took a 49% stake in the company including an option to purchase a majority interest at their discretion and awarded a 10 year management contract to J.R.D. Tata to run the airline.

One of Air India's first acts under this new mandate was to order Lockheed L-749 Constellations in order to inaugurate international service. The first L-749 registered VT-CQS was delivered in March 1948, quickly followed by two others. In June 1948, the first international flight from Bombay to London was operated via Cairo and Geneva by an L-749 registered VT-CQP. In total, Air India received 3 L-749 base model aircraft.

Later that year, Lockheed developed the L-749A which offered an additional 2000kg of payload and Air India decided to replace their existing fleet of brand new L-749s with this variant. Fortunately, Qantas was a willing customer for these older airframes. The first sale of "Mughal Princess" was completed in December 1949 and the sale of "Rajput Princess" in April 1951.