The foundation of Vadodara’s aviation dreams was laid way back in 1930s, during the reign of the visionary ruler – Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III. Sayajirao, a flying enthusiast, had signed a pact with a Germany’s Glider manufacturing company – Decota (Dakota) which had established a manufacturing unit in Vadodara. In 1936, Sayajirao III had visited the Berlin Olympics where he had signed a Baroda-Berlin pact to take help from German scientists and engineers.
Baroda Aerodrome was proposed in 1936 when Captain Eden from the Aeronautical Training Center of India visited Baroda. He proposed few sites like Gorva, Harni, Warasiya etc for making the aerodrome in Vadodara. All the above sites were proposed on the basis of the nature of quality soil, area of land available etc. In the end, Harni site was finalized as it was ideal for air development & could be acquired at affordable cost.
The construction of aerodrome was completed in 1937 & a landing ground was constructed for ideal weather conditions. Jobs such as grading the landing ground with boundary marks, providing wire fencing, approach road, picketing base and a three room office building were created at the cost of Rs 1,15,000. The Baroda Government had sanctioned Rs. 2,95,000 for the construction of two pucca runways with French drains and for the installation of a wireless station. The Harni aerodrome was opened to public by The Baroda Government on 20th October 1937. (© www.HistoryofVadodara.in)
Germany’s Glider manufacturing company was established in 1939 but it had to be shut down after a year due to World War II. The manufacturing unit was established at the modern day Harni airport area. All the gliders were locally made soon after the completion of four glider aircraft’s. The operations had to be shut down because of the war between Britain and Germany due to which the German manufactures were ousted.
The post office colony opposite to the present day Harni airport still has a wall left for the glider hanger. The area utilized by the glider manufacturer was 4 times the size of the present airport. The plan was to make aircraft’s in the long run.
Such was Sayajirao’s vision to develop the aviation sector that he had set up such aerodromes at four places namely – Baroda, Navsari, Amreli and Vadnagar.
Tata Airways, Indian National Airways Limited, Air Services of India Ltd etc were the first few airlines available during that time.
The aerodrome which was built by Baroda Govenment was taken over by the Government of Bombay in 1949 with the merging of the Baroda state in the Bombay Presidency. The Civil Aviation Department of Government of India assumed the responsibility for the maintenance of civil aerodromes in the country from April 1950 under the Federal Integration Scheme. The Indian Airlines began to operate flying schedule air service to and from Baroda airport. From 14th July 1969 till present, Baroda is linked with Ahmedabad and Bombay and with other important airports. (© www.HistoryofVadodara.in)
Baroda Government also started flying club based flights on entirely new foundations and designed with the full knowledge of flying club activities.
Partial Sources: ‘Progress Report of Civil Aviation in Baroda State’ & Times of India