Brief History of Aviation in Bangladesh

Considered to be the very earliest type of aviation, kite flying has long been a form of entertainment for the people of Bangladesh. Initially a pastime of the elite dating back to the Mughal period, it became a tradition among all Bangladeshis, particularly from the mid-18th century, and kite painting was a recognized form of art. Today, kite flying festivals remain a highlight on the social calendar of many regions in Bangladesh.

World War II brought modern aviation to Bangladesh when the first military airstrip was built in Tajgaon by the British Raj to facilitate access for warplanes in the battlefields of Burma and Kohima in India. The construction of other airstrips soon followed in Feni, Chittagong, Comilla, Chakaria, Sylhet, Cox’s Bazar, Jessore, Lalmonirhat and Rajshahi. These military airstrips provided a base for the RAF Third Tactical Air Force throughout World War II.

At the conclusion of the war, the colonial government built at airport at the original Tajgaon airstrips, as well as a landing strip at Kurmitola to accommodate the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) stationed in the city of Dhaka. Kurmitola later developed into the Shahjalal International Airport, the largest airport in Bangladesh. Culcutta-based Orient Airways was formed in 1946 and was the first commercial airline to use Tajgaon airport for civilian traffic, with flights between Karachi and Dhaka starting on June 7, 1954. The British Overseas Airways Corporation and Pan American Airways both established flight routes out of Dhaka by 1960 and former Royal Air Force airstrips at Chittagong, Thakurgaon, Jessore, Ishwardi and Comilla were developed into airports.

The Liberation War of 1971 saw extensive aerial battles taking place in the skies over Bangladesh between the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Bangladesh Air Force was established in late July 1971, with training taking place in India, and a number of ex-PAF pilots joining its ranks. Strikes on various key targets were carried out by the Bangladesh Air Force during the Liberation War.

Following the Independence of Bangladesh civil aviation was resumed with the first flight from Tajgaon Airport on January 1, 1972. Established in 1972, Biman Bangladesh Airlines was the independent country’s first commercial passenger airline. Fully state-owned, the airline held the monopoly for more than twenty years. Today, private passenger and cargo airlines in Bangladesh include Aero Bengal Airlines, GMG Airlines, Bismillah Airlines, Best Aviation, Zoom Airways, Air Bangladesh, Royal Bengal Airline, Regent Airways and United Airways.