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DARING STUNTS The show promises some gravity-defying tumbles and tail slides
DARING STUNTS The show promises some gravity-defying tumbles and tail slides

The much-awaited Aero India 2007 gets under way today. ANAND SANKAR gives a sneak peek of what to see at the expo billed South Asia's biggest

All the thunder of flying displays and the subtle dealings of big business - that in essence would sum up Aero India 2007, which begins at Yelahanka Air Station today. The biennial event, into its sixth edition now, has become an international signature for Bangalore and this year it promises to be bigger than ever in more than one parameter.The beginnings of Aero India can be traced to 1996 when it began as a modest defence expo, but today it is billed as one of the biggest aviation jamborees in South Asia and is fast gaining recognition that equates it with the likes of the Farnborough and Paris Air Shows. In fact this year, Farnborough International (FIL), the organiser of the Farnborough Air Show, has joined the Ministry of Defence and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) as co-organisers. With Bangalore already facing a critical shortage of hotel accommodation, bookings were made well in advance and it is estimated that 4,000 international visitors will be attending this year. The 2005 show saw the participation of an American fighter aircraft for the first time, with F-15s flying down for a static display. This year, the Americans have a big contingent followed by the Europeans.When it comes to aircraft, it was the Russians who stole the show in the previous editions with their ace test pilots demonstrating the latest Sukhoi and MIG aircraft. The Sukhoi team performed with their Sukhoi-30MK aircraft and executed some world-famous manoeuvres such as the Pugachev Cobra, where the aircraft rears up in mid-air like the head of a striking cobra. This year the Russians have come with an equally capable aircraft, the MIG-35. This aircraft is a development of the already legendary MIG-29 Fulcrum and features the same swivelling engines of the Sukhoi. Painted in special red, white and blue display colours, the MIG-35 will perform some never before seen flips, tumbles and slides in mid-air. This year the Americans are making their presence felt with two F-16 Fighting Falcons and F/A-18 Super Hornets. The Super Hornet is the one to watch out for as it packs quite a punch while operating from really short take off and landing runs. The Swedes have come down with their compact and breathtakingly agile JAS-39 Gripen. The aircraft is quite distinctive to look at with a delta wing and two short stubby canards in front. And the French have come with the Mirage-2000-5, an updated version of the Mirage-2000s already in service with the Indian Air Force (IAF). All the above fighters are competing to bag an IAF order for 126 aircraft and one can expect them to put forward their best show. Expect a lot of the aircraft from the IAF to make flypasts but one you must not miss is the aerobatics by the Su-30MKIs. Though they have performed at previous editions of the air show, this time the Russians have not come down with their Su-30s so it is left to the IAF to showcase the aircraft. They do not disappoint and will perform a gravity-defying tumble and tail slide.The main aerobatics teams will be the Suryakirans and the Sarang helicopter team. The Suryakirans, who are famous for painting the sky in the colours of the tricolour, have come all the way from Bidar for the show. But in a tragic accident while rehearsing for their display, one of the Sarang choppers crashed and the co-pilot was killed. It is now said the team will be performing in spite of the loss.The progress made by India's own indigenous fighter project, the LCA Tejas, will be showcased when three of the prototypes make a flypast and one of the aircraft gives an aerobatics display. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will showcase one of its flagship products, the ALH Dhruv helicopter in a variety of roles - from military to civilian transport.For aviation enthusiasts many more aircraft will be on static display such as the C-17 Globemaster transport, P3C Orion maritime patrol and C-130J Hercules transport aircraft, and the unique CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Also any visitor to the exhibition can expect to return with an armful of brochures, posters and other promotional material to do with aviation. Tickets for the public to enter the flying display area is priced at Rs. 200 a day on weekdays and Rs. 300 over the weekend, admission to the exhibition halls will be at Rs. 750 a day. Tickets are available at all Canara Bank branches and at Garuda Mall and Forum.
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Watch out for:Ratan Tata's flight in an F-16The MIG-35's breathtaking aerobaticsIAF's Su-30MKIs matching the RussiansThe nimble and agile Swedish JAS-39 GripenThe American F-16 and F/A-18 perform aerobaticsIAF's Suryakiran and Sarang display teamsThe Akashganga para drop team

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