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Free Indian Aviation from its Colonial Past

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Public Transport

I thought as a lull, I will resurrect an old story, that I am sure should get some of our "nationalistic" juices flowing in a non-BIAL direction.

Incidentally, all airports in India are also with an ICAO Code starting with V which indicates Viceroy (as in the British Raj). For example HAL is VOBG, BIA is VOBL, Yelahanka is VOYK, Hyderabad Begumpet is VOHY, Chennai is VOMM, Bombay is VABB, Delhi is VIDP.


Monday August 4 2003 00:00 IST

Govt yet to free Indian aircraft from colonial past

NEW DELHI: "50 years of flying" these words were proudly painted on all Indian Airlines aircraft as the State-owned airlines celebrated its golden jubilee on Friday. But the registration number displayed close by on the fuselage marred the sense of pride a trifle.

Starting with the initials VT, the registration number of all Indian civil aircraft serves as a reminder of the country's colonial past. Standing for Viceroy's Territory, the registration prefix VT was assigned to India in 1929, and it continued ever since.

"Bombay became Mumbai, Connaught Place became Rajiv Gandhi Chowk and Curzon Road became Kasturba Gandhi Marg. But nobody has thought of writing to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) asking for a change in the call sign of Indian aircraft," disclosed an official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

So whether it is an Indian Airlines, Air-India, Jet or a Sahara owned aircraft, all have the prefix VT in their registration numbers. The alphabets following VT depend upon the type of the aircraft. "For example, the registration number of the IA aircraft (flight IC 814) an airbus A 300 which was hijacked to Kandahar in December 1999 was VT-EDW. Registration numbers of most IA aircraft have the alphabet E following VT," the official added.

However, India's helicopter company Pawan Hans _ which came into existence in 1985 _ uses PH as a prefix in the registration numbers of choppers in its fleet. "Our neighbours and other Asian countries have more apt call signs as their registration prefixes. Pakistan uses AP, Nepal's aircraft registration prefix is 9N and Japan's is JA. It's time for India also to do the needful," a Ministry of Civil Aviation official said.

In fact, the DGCA brought this to the notice of new Civil Aviation Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy. When contacted by this website's newspaper, Rudy said that the fact had disturbed him too and that he had issued written instructions to get him evidence that VT actually stood for Viceroy's Territory.

"If I get evidence that VT has any colonial connotations, the Government would be more than willing to get the call sign changed. So far, the DGCA has not been able to provide any proof. And without that, it would appear very whimsical if we ask for a change in the registration number prefix of our aircraft," Rudy added.



Do you think, India should ask for a change of registration prefix ? Your comments please.


Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog


narayan82's picture

change it soon?

102 users have liked.
Wouldnt they have to change it soon. As in wouldnt they run out of nos. with the new planes coming in? RTO started with MYB for bangalore- which stood for Mysore State. Which then became ME..., then CA... and finally KA...
Narayan Gopalan
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Devesh's picture

VT Registration

100 users have liked.

All aircraft registrations are 5 alpha-num characters. VT-XXX. I think DGCA still has some 11,000+ registration combinations available in VT. More than enough.

The VT stands for Viscount Territory or Viceroy Territory, since the ICAO convention was adopted in 1944 while India was still under the Raj. All territories of the British, had VT designations. Some have changed. Malaysia is now 9M-, Nepal is 9N-, Singapore is 9V-, etc. Check out this site

The idea is to change the VT to something like IN-xxx (Germany is D-xxxx, Italy is I-xxxx, UK is G-xxxx, Canada is C-xxxx, USA is Nxxxx, etc.)

I wonder if all of us at Praja, can sign a petition to forward to Shri Praful Patel for his action with ICAO. 



Devesh R. Agarwal

Visit my aviation blog at


Bangalore Aviation
Enjoy life, destroy FUD
admin's picture

Strictly Bangalore focused material please

113 users have liked.

Devesh, we want to be very Bangalore focused (or at least Karnataka focused) on this group (Bangalore Praja). We realize its hard to make that call, thinks are all interlinked after all. But hope nobody minds us moving this post off the frontpage.


hari's picture

Don't care

115 users have liked.
There are bigger fish to fry. This is just an irritation.
tango08's picture

Free Indian Aviation from Hindi Domination

114 users have liked.
A more pressing need is to free Indian aviation from the shackles of Hindi. When most of the aviation traffic is in non-Hindi speaking states, why should airports be forced to have hindi signage (that too at the expense of the local language) and airlines be forced to make announcements in Hindi? Also shouldn't the national carrier give equal importance to all languages on its wings? I appreciate it is not practical to have all languages at the same time, but at least they can adopt different languages for different planes on a rotational basis. Hope someone files a petition with Praful Patel. It is time the government of India gave equal importance too all major regional languages, not just Hindi. comment guidelines

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