Aero India-Bengaluru not grounded after all!

BENGALURU/New Delhi: Ending a two-month-long suspense over the venue, triggered by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s ambiguous stand on Aero India 2019 being held in the aerospace hub as planned — triggered by pressure from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to shift the event to his state —  the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Saturday that Aero India’s next edition will be held in the city on February 20, 2019, as planned.

Waking up to the fact that all other venues raised by the minister, in particular the Bakshi Ka Talab airbase near Lucknow which topped the list of alternative options despite its appalling lack of infrastructure — it has one hangar —  to host Asia’s largest aerospace show, the MoD said in New Delhi that the five-day show will go ahead as planned in the well connected IT capital.

Discounting the directive to scrap the DRDO-organised convention of organizing an international conference along with the air show, the MoD announced that the air show would showcase the participation of think tanks from across the world.  “It will be a unique opportunity for exchange of information, ideas and new developments in the domestic aviation industry. It would further the cause of Make in India,” said the statement. 

Top sources in MoD said several factors forced the top brass to retain Bengaluru as the venue for Aero India 2019. First, other venues including Bakshi Ka Talab could not match the infrastructure in terms of the number of hangars needed and the additional space for temporary hangars and other facilities at the sprawling Air Force Station, Yelahanka, the hub of training pilots for the transport fleet and helicopter squadrons. 

A lone hangar in Bakshi Ka Talab, a care & maintenance unit of the Indian Air Force (IAF) would be inadequate for an international air show, with little room for expansion of the air base as it was surrounded by paddy fields.  Besides, the astronomically high expenditure involved in creation of infrastructure and other facilities, it would have taken at least two years to construct additional hangars.

The other disadvantages being extreme weather conditions in Uttar Pradesh in February  - smog and severe cold – which would prevent pilots from performing aerobatics during the show and thus discourage global majors in aerospace from participating in the show.

Last, the nearest civilian airport, Lucknow, situated 60 km away, does not figure on the international map and would have left foreign delegates with no option but to land in New Delhi and board connecting flights to Lucknow to reach the venue.  At one point, the top brass had asked DRDO to drop the convention of organizing an international conference along with the air show when told that it would be impossible to invite renowned experts to a city not connected by international flights, at short notice.  

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