Indeed, quite an unusual name for an aircraft: Malabar Princess! Two juxtaposed words, almost antagonistic. Could it be the beauty and the beast of the sky? 'Malabar,' this expression emerged in the second half of the 19th century, referring to an Indian population from the Malabar region employed in sugarcane fields in Réunion. Employers were seeking robustly built men.
Of the same origin, the Malabar Princess, a Lockheed L-749 Constellation registered as VT-CQP, is one of the three delivered to Air India between March and June 1948 for the establishment of a route from Bombay to Cairo, Geneva, and London. It was this L-749 that inaugurated the route in June 1948. Its name, chosen by the Tata family, refers to the hill of the same name overlooking Bombay, the family's residence city.
On November 3, 1950, Malabar Princess, Flight 245, takes off for London with 40 passengers and 8 crew members on board. Around 10:30 am, the L-749 has its final radio communication with Geneva-Cointrin International Airport, where it is scheduled to make a stopover. At that time, it estimates its position to be 25 kilometers northwest of Grenoble, above Voiron, at an altitude of over 5,000 meters. Shortly after, the Malabar Princess crashes 40 meters below the summit of Mont Blanc near the Rocher de la Tournette. It concludes its fateful journey on the Bossons Glacier.
For several decades, thanks to the effects of climate change, the glacier has been releasing remnants of the Malabar Princess. Josée de Vérité Mermoud, an amateur archaeologist and sculptor, lives in Chamonix. In her sculptures, beauty, tragedy, and history are expressed simultaneously. 'As an amateur archaeologist, I climbed, explored, and dug to excavate the beating heart of these torn pieces of metal that 'spoke' to me about their history. I transported them, often with great difficulty and always with emotion.
These pieces, deformed by the violence of the crash, are hardly recognizable. Just over a year ago, Josée de Vérité Mermoud contacted our association to try to identify some of the remnants from the Indian company's L-749.
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the F-BGNJ, Josée wanted to offer a piece of the Malabar Princess to the Super Constellation Enthusiasts Club, specifically a canister from one of the engines' fire extinguishers, which is also found on the 1049. The entire team of the club warmly thanks her for this gift, filled with history and emotion. A new story to tell our visitors!
Discover the story of the Malabar Princess in the video below.