The little Maharajah that could
March 1, 2011 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Air India (in collaboration with Indian Airlines, the Indian Air Force and Aeroflot) is in the Guinness Book of World Records for their airlift in 1990 when they successfully evacuated 111,711 Indian citizens from Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan by operating 488 refugee flights over a period of 59 days. While they have never quite managed to break that record in the intervening years and subsequent strife, Air India in collaboration with any available merchant ships is at it again after Egypt to deal with the largest evacuation since then ongoing right now from Libya.
posted by infini (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazing! And so many disrespect India.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:17 AM on March 1, 2011


The links seems messed up. The Air India link takes me to a page about J.R.D. Tata. The Guiness Book of World Records is a Wikipedia page on mass evacuations, etc.

Also evacuating the 17,000 Indian citizens in Libya will certainly not break any new records - unless it is planned to be done in a single flight which would be really, really cool.
posted by three blind mice at 6:33 AM on March 1, 2011


three blind mice: "The links seems messed up. The Air India link takes me to a page about J.R.D. Tata. The Guiness Book of World Records is a Wikipedia page on mass evacuations, etc.

Also evacuating the 17,000 Indian citizens in Libya will certainly not break any new records - unless it is planned to be done in a single flight which would be really, really cool.
"

I guess you could cram that many people into an Airbus Beluga if they were all in a futuristic hibernation mode where they wouldn't have to pee or eat.
posted by mkb at 6:53 AM on March 1, 2011


I was trying to be clever with the link to JRD since Air India is already in there, but the other was due to there not being anything out there on the airlift or the world record so I went for the mass evacuations one.

They're not claiming a world record, simply saying that all the intervening airlifts have been much smaller and this is the largest most complex one yet - if you go through the news for this, the rest of the countries have not been able to do this as smoothly.

Seeing as how I spent an extra night in Delhi airport just recently at Christmastime when there was too much winter fog and the Air India flight got delayed by an entire cold winter's day, its amazing what these guys turn out to do for their citizens.
posted by infini at 6:58 AM on March 1, 2011


I guess you could cram that many people into an Airbus Beluga if they were all in a futuristic hibernation mode where they wouldn't have to pee or eat.

Naw. It'd be *way* too heavy. The A300-600ST has a cargo capacity of 47 tons. If they weighed an average of 150lbs, 17,000 people would weigh 1,125 tons.

On the other hand, if you did want to cram 'em in like sardines, you probably could move 17,000 people in just a handful of A380 flights.
posted by schmod at 7:17 AM on March 1, 2011


You're telling me that Airbus Beluga flies?!
posted by echo target at 7:20 AM on March 1, 2011


The Saturn V had a carrying capacity of about 100 tons, for comparison. Certainly would be a more entertaining ride than being crammed into an A-380.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:27 AM on March 1, 2011


I guess you could cram that many people into an Airbus Beluga if they were all in a futuristic hibernation mode where they wouldn't have to pee or eat.

Or breathe. The only part of the Beluga that is pressurized is the cockpit half.
posted by Catfry at 10:23 AM on March 1, 2011


The Indian Foreign Secretary has been blogging about the rescue operation: http://twitter.com/ForSecNRao
posted by vidur at 3:23 PM on March 1, 2011


Well lets see them try to airlift the Desis on Devon. THAT would break records.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:35 PM on March 1, 2011


If you're willing to disregard the number of seats on a 747, and counting children, you can fit a lot:

"Operation Solomon airlifted almost twice as many Ethiopian Jews to Israel as Operation Moses.[dubious – discuss] The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load on May 24, 1991 when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel (1,087 passengers were registered, but dozens of children hid in their mothers' robes). "Planners expected to fill the aircraft with 760 passengers"

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Operation_Solomon
posted by thewalrus at 7:48 AM on March 2, 2011


Little known true fact: While the Air-India-led operation was the world's largest civilian airlift ever, the world's largest airlift ever was happening in the opposite direction - that of US-led Coalition soldiers streaming into the Gulf region. They did this by engaging civilian airlines in the effort. (Telling this from memory; no cites, sorry). There's a great India Today feature on this from 1990's that's still the best resource on this operation. (Should be available online with some "hard" googling)

A viewpoint from a Chinese perspective. (It's a bit confused, in that it seems to confuse between projection of soft-power with rescuing civilians)

On further googling: the second largest civilian airlift was during the Kosovo conflict.
posted by the cydonian at 10:27 PM on March 2, 2011


(It's a bit confused, in that it seems to confuse between projection of soft-power with rescuing civilians)

Interesting insight into their pragmatism
posted by infini at 3:51 AM on March 3, 2011


Interesting insight into their pragmatism

As in, the unstated comparison there was with the then Indian foreign minister, IK Gujral's, bearhug with Saddam Hussein, a bearhug that was later said to have been necessitated under duress.

Iraq had declared Kuwait to be their newest province and told the External Affairs Ministry that therefore, there was no need for India to maintain an embassy in Kuwait City. Furthermore, the Coalition Forces were arming themselves on Kuwait's borders with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the only way Indians stranded in Kuwait could leave the region was through Iraq; they trekked via Baghdad into Jordan to Amman, from where they were airlifted. All this needed the Iraqis' cooperation, which in turn needed a bear-hug that many at that time felt was akin to a kow-tow.

Essentially, the Indian experience has been that rescuing civilians from a foreign land does not involve projection of Indian soft-power.
posted by the cydonian at 7:11 AM on March 3, 2011


Nice, The cydonian, thank you for sharing that. This puts a whole different light into what I didn't know (because there was no internets) back in 1990 in Madras, when the "refugees" started streaming in looking for work. We're talking ad agency account execs, marketing and sales people, bank managers and university faculty members suddenly bereft of entire lives and livelihoods.
posted by infini at 8:22 AM on March 3, 2011


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