Air Vice Marshal Arvind “Dal” Dalaya, AVSM, VM, 4025 F(P), was born in Murree, Undivided India in 1931. He was the son of Rev. Alexander Manmohan Dalaya, MBE and Sonu Gadre Dalaya. Rev. Dalaya was the Principal of Edwards College in Peshawar. As the son of a well-known educator, AVM Dalaya was privileged to meet some of the leading figures of the Indian Independence movement such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Jinnah, Dr. Khan Sahb, et al.
He realized that flying was the only career he wanted after watching the RAF Spitfires returning from their sorties over the Khyber Pass. After Partition, the family stayed in Pakistan, having received assurances from many officials that life would continue as it had done. However, by 1948, Rev. Dalaya concluded that Pakistan would not welcome and provide opportunities for Christians in the future. He decided to move the family to Bombay as the family was originally from Maharastra.
Since the violence associated with Partition was still occurring, the family was concerned for its safety. It was indicative of the regard that Rev. Dalaya’s Muslim students had for him that when the family members entered their train cabin, they found that students had decorated it with flowers. In addition, several of them stayed in the cabin to protect the Dalayas until the train neared the Indian border. Rev. Dalaya later became Principal of Madhav College (Ujjain) and Christian College (Indore).
AVM Dalaya joined the IAF as a Flight Cadet in Pilot’s Course 54 in 1949 and received his “wings” as a fighter pilot in January 1951.
His first posting was with No. 3 Squadron, then flying Hawker Tempest fighter bombers.
He completed his QFI course at the FIS in Ambala in 1953. This was followed by various stings as an Instructor.
He was one of the first Indian pilots to be trained on helicopters and was the first CO of 114 HU, which performed well in the 1965 War.
After many postings, including Air Force Station commander of New Delhi and then Palam, he was promoted to Air Vice Marshal as Air Officer Commanding- Jammu & Kashmir (AOC- J&K) in 1984. As AOC- J&K, he commanded the Air Force units that were instrumental in ensuring that the Army was supplied, that its casualties were evacuated, and that it was protected from air attack in its successful effort to control the Siachen Glacier. As the first AOC with oversight of the Glacier, AVM Dalaya instituted the flying protocols that are largely in use there today.
AVM Dalaya retired in 1987. Over his 36-year career, he logged over 5,000 flying hours in a number of aircraft. He lives in New Delhi.
He passed away on 2 September 2022 in New Delhi. He was a man of faith, honour, and integrity. Throughout his career and in retirement, he lived by the motto: Country First, Service Second, Self Last.