Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aero India 2009

Here I present a short write up on the Aero Show 2009 that took place from Feb 11- 15 at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bangalore. This was the 7th Aero India show, organized by Ministry of Defence, Government of India and also managed by the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) after 6 successful editions of the exhibition from 1996 -2007.

The defence exhibition was a breathtaking experience and I was struck with awe at the flight displays presented by exhibitors, both indigenous and foreign. At the same time, there is an equal share of anger too with the English daily, Times of India that provided threadbare details of the event of such scale.

Viswa and I went on the last day of the exhibition, a Sunday (Feb 15), reaching the venue by the special BMTC bus service from Shivaji Nagar bus terminus to Yelahanka Air Base. We reached the venue at 10.10 am amidst huge roars from the aircrafts that sped through the blue, clear sky. There are two shows each day starting from day 1 of the exhibition and I must say, having stayed for both, that these two are pretty different. We saw solo air flight performances by three fighter aircrafts, followed by a solo rendition of a glider and helicopter in the morning session before we witnessed superb, unparalleled air stunts by the Saarang team of IAF on Dhruv copters. Four choppers in perfect unison performed stunts like loop formations, fly past/cross paths with just enough room for their rotors, dolphin leap and my favourite of all – the reverse motion of a chopper to join the other three. The chopper moving in the reverse direction literally performed the act of moonwalk in sky.

Moving into afternoon hours, we saw three choppers, one lifting a jeep, two others a human chain, then 13 paratroopers, from the Akaashganga Sky diving team descending in style. After this there was a short recess when the crowd dispersed to grab lunch. The second show of the day began at 2.30 pm and we stuck on, this time closer to the speakers from where we could clearly hear descriptions of each aircraft, its vital statistics and details of the commander/officer who flew it.

To start with, the whale-like B 70 of the US Air force took off the runway. As it soared into the sky, we wondered how it was able to lift itself and keep afloat. The behemoth steered in different angles and every time it flew over us, we only wondered if the sky was enough for it.

The second event in the afternoon show was the flight acrobatics by LCA. This was a marvellous display where unbelievable heights were reached, free fall was attempted a couple of times, swift change of angles and flight with belly upwards occurred. The next on show was a solo display, no less than that of LCA, by the British aircraft, Hawk. A white colored and relatively meek glider Hansa 3 took to sky thereafter.

Now was the time for the star performance and the landmark event of the Aero Show – performance by the Suryakiran team of IAF, anticipating which we decided to linger on at the venue even after the end of the first show. Our patience did pay off.

Six Kiran aircrafts, maintained prim and proper since 1960 leapt into the sky in two groups, each of 3 aircrafts. It was a sheer visual treat seeing the six aircrafts fly in close proximity making shapes of V and T, loops, barrel rolls and flying past, leaving trails of tricolour. The stage was set aptly with “Vande Mataram” song by AR Rahman playing in the background from the speakers. It evoked a great sense of national pride in all. We stood erect, heads held as high as possible to record every swift action of the 6 aircrafts. A highly talented team, with unquestionable precision, leaving not even hairline room for error/doubt raced with supreme control in the sky, headed by one Mr. Curian in such sync that the crowd could not do much but call for an “encore”. The team performed the final act of splitting along different trajectories after having flown closely, it appeared equivalent to a flower pot cracker in the sky.

The Saarang team performed again in the afternoon, this time, the moon walk act was missing and the 13 paratroopers again descended down the sky. The Aero Show 2009 drew to a close and was a stupendous success. We returned home filled with excitement, with a vow to get back after two years.

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