By Anantha Krishnan M.
He is revered as the 'Bhishmapitamaha' of the Indian aircraft industry; Hailing from Kolhapur district; he was the founder head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. A passionate plane maker, he was the chief architect of the Hindustan Trainer No 2 (HT-2), the first aircraft designed, developed and manufactured in India, by Indians for Indians.
Dr Vishnu Madhav Ghatage joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
in the 40s and was closely associated with the piston-engined trainer aircraft
the light aircraft 'Pushpak' used by flying clubs, 'Krishak', the agriculture aircraft and jet-trainer 'Kiran', which has become the star attraction of the Indian Air
Fore (IAF) during air shows.
Aviation writer Pushpinder Singh, who can dish out any plane stuff non-stop, recalls the first public flignt of HT-2 in his research-packed edition 'Diamonds in the Sky'. The HT-2 was flight-demonstrated for the public in August 1951 by Capt. J.K.Munshi. Dr Ghatage was among the 1000-odd invitees present for the event. HT-2 was described by the pilots as akin to a lady; clean and trim to her tips, her proud nose up in the air and her figure slim and strong.
If Ghatage made HT-2 a household name for many decades, HAL continued with the initial thrust given by him, by rolling out many more machines that made independent India proud. The archives of HAL reveal that Ghatage was a man with vision and foresaw the future as being dominated by jets.
Through his sheer hard work, Ghatge rose to become the general manager and managing director of HAL. He retired in 1971.
"Dr Ghatage is the father-figure of our design centre. He is the source
of inspiration for our present and future designers. His contributions
to aeronautics will be
remembered for many more generations to come," HAL chairman N.R. Mohanty told The Times of India.
A recipient of Padma Shri in 1965, Ghatage died on December 6,1991 aged 81, of cancer. Today, when the flying fraternity gears up to join the centenary party of the Wright Brothers, the nation pays tribute to the doyen of aeronautics on his 12th death anniversary.