History of Safdarjung Airport
Established during the British Raj as Willingdon Airfield, it started operations as an aerodrome in 1929, when it was India's second airport after the Juhu Aerodrome in Mumbai and Delhi's only airport. It was used extensively during the World War II. It remained the city's main airport till 1962, when operation shifted to Palam Airport completely by the late 1960s, as it could not support the new bigger aircraft such as jet aircraft.
In 2001, after 9/11 the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to use the airport as the emergency getaway for the President and the Prime Minister. Thereafter in 2002, for security considerations, the government closed the airport for all public flying activities, and all Delhi Flying Club flights were shifted to Hisar Airport. Since then, the airport is largely being used for VVIP helicopter transit of cabinet members, dignitaries and state chief ministers, as well as aircraft maintenance courses, and it once served as a park-and-ride facility during the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Accidents at Safdarjung Airport
Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, died in an air crash on 23 June 1980 near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi. He was flying a new aircraft of the Delhi Flying club, and, while performing a loop over his office, lost control and crashed. The only passenger in the plane, Captain Subhash Saxena, was also killed in the plane crash.
Popular Culture of Safdarjung Airport
In the famous comic book series Tintin in Tibet, its characters like Captain Haddock, Snowy and Tintin have a stop-over in India, and depart from Willingdon Airfield.