Curtains came down on Sunday on the five-day Aero India 2019, Asia’s premier show, which saw the indigenously developed light combat aircraft Tejas being given the Final Operational Clearance. The mega event began on a sombre note on February 20 as a mid-air collision between two Surya Kiran jets of the IAF aerobatic team during rehearsals, left one pilot dead and two injured.
Following the mishap, the team was taken off the air show on the inaugural day. However, the Surya Kiran team took to the skies on Saturday, drawing cheers from visitors as they flew in an incomplete diamond formation, known as “The Missing Man” (aerial salute), as a mark of respect to Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, who died in the accident.
The Rafale team also paid tributes to the pilot by flying at low speed during the air display. The event was hit by yet another tragedy after a fire erupted at the parking lot of Yelahanka Air Base on Saturday, gutting about 300 vehicles. However, the show went on as per schedule after a brief delay. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited the site and took stock of the situation this morning.
On the inaugural day, the Minister had invited investors to capitalise on the ecosystem prevailing in the aero space and other sectors and pitched for joint venture partnerships, saying that it offered a big market in Defence manufacturing.
During the five-day event, ace India shuttler P V Sindhu created history by becoming the first woman to fly the Tejas. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat also flew a sortie on the Tejas. The aero show witnessed the handing over of the FOC certificate and Release to Service Document (RSD) relating to Tejas Dhanoa on the opening day.
FOC involves addition of key capabilities to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft which are Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities, Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked weapons and general flight envelope expansion.
Combat aircraft Rafale was the star attraction at the show as the breathtaking display of manoeuvres by the aerobatic team cast a spell on the aviation enthusiasts. Around four lakh people who attended the event were treated to a spectacular flying display of fighter, civilian aircraft and helicopters. As part of the women’s day celebrated on Saturday, five women flew high in the skies.
Mohana Singh, one of India’s three women fighter pilots, flew a Hawk-i while flight lieutenants Amardeep Kaur, Sindhu Reddy and Second Lieutenant Khushboo Gupta, flew Chetak. The aerobatic team of Sarang that comprised four Dhruvs, included one chopper piloted by Second Lieutenant Sneha Kulkarni. Besides, several foreign and domestic companies, which took part in the event displayed various models of military aircraft.
Ahmedabad-based Adani group along with its Israeli partner Elbit Systems showcased the Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicles, which are being produced in Hyderabad and sold by the joint venture company. Also, French aviation giant Airbus and American defence firm Lockheed Martin displayed their H225M helicopter and new F-21 fighter jets, respectively.
In yet another development, HAL delivered three Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv aircraft to the Indian Army. The Indian Army had placed an order for 40 Druv aircraft- 22 ALH Mk III and 18 Mk IV Rudra, with HAL in August of 2017. Belgium-based pilot training device and flight simulator company Euramec also announced plans to open a regional sales and technology centre in Bengaluru in 2020.