Air Force Museum is relatively unknown to scores of people staying in and around Delhi. It does not figure on the regular tourist circuit who come to the capital for Delhi Darshan. First there is, who wants to visit a museum. Plus the location of this place is on a limb. If you ever have a bucket list for travel, this museum should be on top. It will overwhelm you with a patriotic pride and admiration for those magnificent men in their flying machines.
Delhi’s connection with Air Force
Air Planes were invented much before the First World War. They were put to actual use first for reconnaissance and providing battle field intelligence. Military generals were skeptical to the effectiveness of an aircraft as a war machine. But the great war provided an effective testing platform for air warfare. 1930s saw the evolution of air planes in their fighting avatar. First batch of Indian fighter pilots were trained in 1932.
The first airstrip in Delhi was of grass and administrative buildings were tents, setup in 1918 in Willington Airfield, now known as Safdurjung Airport. The first airmail arrived on 30 Nov 1918 and the first commercial flight in 1927. Delhi Flying Club was established in 1928 with two aircrafts, “Delhi” and “Roshanara”. During the Second World War, the Indian Air Force participated in flying missions from Tezpur and Panagarh Air Force stations. Transit support was provided by Delhi Airport. During that time, the British Air Force also built another airforce base outside the city limits at Palam.
In 1962, it was decided to shift commercial flights from Safdurjang Airport to Palam Airport. The Air Force Station at Palam is still functional and co exists with the civil airport terminals. A small area in Palam has been segregated along with vintage aircraft to house the Indian Air Force museum.
Location, timings and other details
Entry is free, but each visitor needs to carry a copy of Aadhaar card as identity proof. Sufficient vehicle parking is available. Bags of any kind are not permitted inside. Cameras and photography is allowed. We were stopped and told that camera bag is not allowed, so DSLR guys, beware. Mondays and Tuesdays is closed, while on other days it is open from 10 am to 5 pm. You will need at least two hours to spend in the museum. There is a basic canteen with limited items within the premises.
Layout of the Air Force Museum
Museum is divided in fours parts, Annexe, Hanger, Outdoor display and Indoor display. The Annexe has three section covering picture and display right from the history of Airforce to modern day wars. It has uniforms, weapons and other such historic items on display.
The hanger is where all the action is. It is huge and contains spectacular exhibits of vintage air crafts and components.
If you are an avid photographer, you might spend a couple of hours in this hanger. The next sections are the outdoor display followed by the indoor display at the end.
This place is so massive that it is not possible to cover the exhibits in one article. Plus we best leave it to you to see the place in person and enjoy a special feeling. Once such exhibit on display is tail unit of SU-7 aircraft which was flown back by Wing Commander Mangat after it was badly damaged in 1971. There is also a World War II, B-24 Liberator bomber and remains of Pakistani Sabre Jets shot down by Indian Air Force in 1971. Indian Air Force museum also has a souvenirs shop to take back those memories.
Modern avionics are an extension of the pilot and they set rules for safe flying. The aircraft on display belong to an era where skills of the pilot were brought to the fore. These aircraft were highly maneuverable and here allowed the pilot to do virtually anything without limits. A true era of grit and bravery.
Note – There is an error in the article which says entry is free. However there is an entry fee.