On This Day

The Day Seaplanes Began Flying in Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 15 November 2020

Yangon — On this day in 1934, the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC), which monopolized inland river trade during the colonial period in Myanmar (then Burma), launched the first-ever air transport business in the country.

The Scottish-run firm started with an eight-seater seaplane flying once a week between Yangon (then Rangoon) and Mandalay, linking with the London-Rangoon route run by Imperial Airways.

The service predated by nearly six years the formation in June 1940 of the Burma Volunteer Air Unit from which grew Myanmar’s modern air force.

The firm employed pilots and engineers from Imperial Airways and then expanded to Mawlamyine (then Moulmein), Dawei (then Tavoy) and Myeik (then Mergui) along the coast of Tanintharyi (then Tenasserim).

The company then bought a foundry by the Pazundaung, which flows into the Yangon River, and transformed it into a small seaplane workshop. However, the company closed in 1938 as it did not receive support from the British government and too few people were ready for air travel. Two separate seaplane incidents were also a contributing factor.

Ten years after the company closed, the Ministry of Transport in the newly independent country launched domestic and overseas air travel.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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