Bengaluru: It is that time of the year in the Garden City when the traffic over the skies normally beats the one beneath. That season when winter hands over the baton to its summer sibling. And, it’s the time when the scent of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) engulfs the city, reminding one of its deep history of ‘things with wings.’
Preparations for Aero India 2019 have reached the last lap at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, which is around 16 km from the heart of Bengaluru City.
The 12th edition of ‘Plane Carnival’ is set to take off on February 20, painting the skyline over Bengaluru with snazzy machines of different shapes, sizes and capabilities.
This year’s show is key to the NDA government, for it will give it a platform to submit its report card on Make in India in Defence ahead of the 2019 elections.
For the Indian Air Force (IAF), it is yet another opportunity to showcase their ability to host a show of such magnitude sans any skirmishes.
For Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), now caught up in turbulent weather, the show is a golden opportunity to remind the aviation fraternity that it cannot be written off any time in the near future.
For the Karnataka government, the show will be a testimony to the fact that the city is tailor-made for Aero India, offering everything that such a massive event demands.
For AFS Yelahanka, it's yet again an occasion to showcase its might probably as the only plug-and-play base in India, with specific infrastructure in place, built exclusively for the air show over the years.
And, for the plane devotees, it’s carnival time once again, something they look forward to once every alternate February.
The Karnataka government despite staring at political uncertainties prevailing for some time, has been extending all help to the organisers.
“The state government has been very proactive right from the beginning and we have been getting great support from them in terms of infrastructure, man power, police among other things,” said an official, who is part of the Aero India team, from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Work in full swing
At AFS Yelahanka, work is in full swing and for the first time it has now got on to a 24x7 mode. The organisers say that every shortfall of 2017 show have been looked into and solutions derived at.
“In terms of facilities being provided to the visitors they have gone up by many folds. There will be 1,000 toilets this time in place of 200 in 2017. The toilets will be cleaned every hour by a separate team,” said the official.
The state government has taken the road-widening work (approach to the air base) on a war-footing. Karnataka Chief Secretary is expected to review the facilities next week.
“We have identified two roads for widening and the highway beautification work is on. This time, the parking has been given to a professional contractor so that everything is streamlined,” the official said.
All the critical points from the IAF\MoD post-show (2017) de-brief are being implemented this time.
“The garbage generated at the venue will be cleared every half an hour by a dedicated team. This time locker facility has been provided to the general public in the parking area,” said the official.
The number of frisking points will be up in addition to more security personnel being deployed in and around the base.
‘The security measures have been enhanced and we have drawn out a plan along with the IAF. As being done in the past, the IAF will be ensuring safer flying environment for the show, including better anti-bird measures,” the official said.
HAL is getting back to Aero India in a big way in the role of an organiser after a gap. The Ministry of Defence seems to have given the mandate back to HAL after the impressive organising of DefExpo at Chennai last year.
The stall space for various exhibitors has gone up this year. Two extra exhibition hangars are coming up at the venue, in addition to the permanent structures (A,B,C,D, E).
“Last year we had an additional hall AB and this year there will be two more, F and G. Even more food courts will be in place at the ADVA (Air Display Viewing Area) and exhibition areas,” said the official.
The official complimented the IAF for their making up for the lost days during the preparatory phase after MoD’s first choice for hosting Aero India 2019 was Lucknow.
“The air show almost flew out of Bengaluru and even many teams from Lucknow had visited AFS Yelahanka to understand various (Standard operating procedure) SOPs. It is their (IAF’s) experience in organising the show in the past that came to our rescue despite loss of some months,” said the official.
New ideas ring in
The MoD has thought out of the box and has added many new elements to the show. While each day has been dedicated to various themes, there are plenty of opportunities for young aerospace and defence talent to showcase their skills.
“Yes, we have looked at the event from a different angle this time. The thrust areas were identified when we had put the Make in India template for Defence in 2014-15. It is a work in progress and we are proud to say that a good eco system is in place now,” said another official with MoD.
As part of the new thought process, global start-ups have been invited to the show to share their ideas with Indian firms keen to test waters in the aerospace and defence sector.
Drone Olympics, Aero Start-Up Challenge, Start-Up Day, Students Pavilion, Women’s Day are among the brand-building ideas that have taken shape this time. As reported earlier by Onmanorama, a new show logo is in place with the theme: “The Runway to a Billion Opportunities.”
A dedicated team of professionals are directly working with MoD to scale up the brand-building activities and showcase India’s military might to the international audience.
Bengaluru Defence PRO’s office arranged an interaction for media with Air Cmde Ravuri Sheetal, AOC, AFS Yelahanka, and his team on Wednesday. A conducted tour of the facilities at the air base is also being planned to take stock of the preparations for Aero India 2019.
AFS Yelahanka falls under IAF Training Command headquartered in Bengaluru with Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria at the helm of affairs.
Meanwhile, Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar tweeted on the Plane Carnival, saying: “Aero India is a show everyone eagerly looks forward to each year. I’m sure this year will be bigger and better than before. Wishing you all the very best.”
Sachin is an honorary Group Captain with the IAF and a regular attendee at AF Day Parade at AFS Hindon in the last few years.
Plane Trivia: Russia had unveiled the MiG 35 in front of an international audience for the first time during Aero India 2017.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)