Maurice Wickstead served with Air India at London Heathrow Airport roughly between 1971 and 1982, having arrived there from Trans-Canada Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS). In his own words, “ ir India was a great outfit to work for, oft times chaotic, but great fun and the camaraderie developed there has lasted well beyond our tenure, since many of us although now a lot older, have remained in contact for all these years.”
Subsequently he embarked on a new leisure time 'career' as an aviation author, specializing in airline and air transport history. Most of his output over the last thirty-odd years has been directed towards international aviation magazines on a regular basis, and also has two small books on the history of the Douglas Dakota and a complete history of every British airline company since 1919. to his name. More recently, he has had published the histories of Air India, Indian Airlines, Pakistan International, together with a history of every (as far as he could discover) Indian airline. Currently under construction is the story of Biman Bangladesh. In fact, he has been in and around aviation all his life - from making model aeroplanes to aircraft spotting at Heathrow in the propeller era hey-dey and in retirement, with light aircraft and the local flying club.
Among the items in his collection of ephemera are a 1941 Tata timetable, a number of AI Annual reports dating from early post-war.
The three-part series on the history of Air India was was published in Aviation News (Dec 2003-Feb 2004). His in-depth study of the history of the airline, and passion for Air India is evident in his writings. He has been prolific writer and has published several magazine articles for various major UK and US aviation periodicals. 'British Dakotas' was published ,around 1985, followed by 'European Dakotas' in 1988, both were limited production runs by a small-time publisher and one would be very lucky to find copies for sale these days. Similarly, around five years ago, he authored a complete condensed history of every British airline company since 1919 - again this was a small run brought out on DVD because of the text size.
The newly discovered 'gay Paree' decal
Unusual baggage decal of the 1950s.
I recently acquired a rather unusual baggage decal of the 1950s. This is by Air-India International with Paris as the destination. These pre-gummed decals were distributed by the airline to passengers to affix on their luggage and had the names of different destinations serviced by the airline along with a cartoon of the Maharajah greeting another person in the local style, and dressed in the traditional costume. The art for each of these was always cheerful and humorous, often a little cheeky. He was the Maharajah, and could get away with a lot. Here is a link to my website page with a comprehensive listing of all the decals in my collection.
The 5 and 1/2 inch diameter decal I chanced upon recently was a new find, a design never seen by me before. Here we have a brightly dressed man, relpete with red scarf and green beret planting a kiss on the cheek of our rather coy Maharajah. I do admire the chutzpah, and the courage of his creators to publish a cartoon like this, and that to in the 1950s. With all the debate going around these days, one wonders whether our so called modern era has a thing or two to learn from the liberal '50s.
There are many coaster collectors world-wide. They tend to focus on specific themes. For instance, many of them collect coasters from pubs, bars and hotels, and yet others focus on brands of beer and ales. Among coaster collectors there is a smaller group that focuses on aviation themed coasters. Knut Wegers from Boenningstedt, Germany is one of the leading collectors of this type. Yes, he collects all kinds of aviation themed coasters made of all kind of material.
Knut chanced upon our web-site, and found the section on Air-India coasters which he says is very very informative and very interesting. His expanding collection now has around 4,500 different coasters from 530 different airlines. He is now an active 73 years of age, and has been collecting from the last 60 years, and he continues to work as a tax-consultant. Knut has an extensive collection of Air-India coasters, and as an advanced collector, he collects both the twin sided, and single sided coasters as two different types.
I asked him what he found most interesting about Air-India coasters, and this is what he had to say. “I like traveling and collecting and I was fascinated by the lot of different locations on the Air India coasters, but so far I did not manage to travel to all these locations only to all of the European ones, plus Beirut, Istanbul, New York, Toronto and Montreal”. Among his collection are some rare old Air-India International coasters never seen by me before. They are made of a velvety type of material. He also has many flimsy material coasters, and has been kind enough to send me images. I plan to upload these images on the web-site shortly.
So, here is wishing Knut all the best, and happy collecting.
Here are some interesting coasters from Knut Wegers' collection.
The first three from the left are quite old and rare.
Among the Air India collection, I saw a large number of Maharajas of varying sizes, made of different materials. Also many rare baggage decals, beer coasters, time tables, maps, booklets, advertisements, menu cards etc. etc.; truly a remarkable collection. Something really special were photographs going back to 1948, when the airline started. These are all ex-John Stroud, and exceedingly well preserved. Also a lovely collection of hand fans, matchboxes, and an acrylic Maharajah which is used as a promotional item on the travel agent counter. This one has hands that are riveted on the shoulder, so that the arms move freely. He is carrying a briefcase and is reminiscent of the 1956 (Frankfurt) Trade Show poster.
Ken is also an artist, and his favourite subject is, yes, you guessed right, it is aircraft! He uses the stippling technique, where you paint by creating a decorative pattern making several small ink dots. Using this technique he has created wonderful illustrations of Air India aircraft. Ken is also a gifted poet, and has published a book of airline verse, Voices from the Heart.
So we had a great day trading stories about Air India, and here’s wishing Ken all the very best with his collecting.
An Air-India Boeing 707 stipple painting by Ken
This was a glorious era, as our newly independent nation found expression in modernity and the airline earned it’s reputation as the finest in the world.
Here we focused on a selection of Air-India International memorabilia from these years, and tied these up with the principal routes developed by the airline during these years. These routes (with start date) were:
The exhibit itself consisted of several items including travel posters, timetables, baggage tags and decals, the famous in-flight service coasters, stationary, first flight covers, route maps etc. etc. On account of the limited space available we could not display many of the 3-dimensional objects like aeroplane models, Maharajah statues etc.
The great news is that Air-India plans to set up a permanent museum and gallery in the ground floor of their Nariman Point office in Mumbai, and has a team working on it. This will display their renowned art collection, as well as their own airline memorabilia. Looking forward to the big day!
Meanwhile, please enjoy some pictures of the event.
Here I will update you on additions and changes to the web-site, and other interesting information about