A peek into the preparations for the Aero show

With a 180-degree stretch of his hands, Wing Commander Amit Kumar indicates the location of a movable stage.

“After the Prime Minister delivers his inaugural address standing on it, the stage will be towed away,” he says.

We are at the sprawling ground at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, and the Wing Commander is trying to present a picture of the upcoming Aero India 2019 (February 20 to 24). There have been 11 editions of the show, and all of them have taken place at this venue.

It is a familiarisation tour for media persons, an exercise that is normally carried out just before the biennial event; this time it happened weeks ahead.

“It is a big responsibility; I have 21 sub-committees under me and 100 officers reporting to me directly,” says Kumar, giving an inkling of the mammoth planning that is going into the biennial air show and aviation exhibition.

Aero India is one of the biggest of its kind in Asia not only for the number of visitors it attracts (5.4 lakh people in 2017), but also for the mega presence of defence brass and aircraft that are showcased. From Rafael fighters to home-made civil transport plane Saras and the Airbus, there are many significant participants this year.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which manages this edition, has the task of making the event more memorable than the earlier shows.

We notice a dozen workers erecting a barricade to divide the Air Display Viewing Area (ADVA) from the space earmarked for the inaugural function.

More than 900 contract workers are working round-the-clock to put up access-controlling barricades, hangars and other facilities.

“That is a German hangar which has come up specially for the big event,” an officer points to a white structure. We are told that the air base gets a fresh coat of paint, an ungraded communication system, and fire-fighting systems of the highest standards.

“We have to co-ordinate with outside agencies and the work includes ensuring the security of the VIPs attending the event,” says Amit Kumar.

He points to his colleague standing near him, “Yesterday, people worked up to the wee hours and he was up to oversee the work.”

We squint our eyes to look at an aircraft flying out a few metres from us. “It is an AN-32,” says the officer when a journalist asks him about it.

The air station is the nerve centre of the Indian Air Force training activity. The taxiway is getting cleared to accommodate war planes and helicopters from India and abroad.

More than 22 static display aircraft have confirmed their participation and this is likely to go up. For the flying display, 31 have registered. Among the officers showing us around, a few are engaged in organising the event for the first time. Some have witnessed two editions.

“We are generally transferred after two or three years, so the advantage is that we have a new approach to every challenge. However, we have to make sure we don’t repeat past mistakes,” says another officer.

On February 18, all sub-committees will take part in a dress rehearsal.

“That is an exercise where all agencies, even a fire fighter, will have to familiarise themselves with every nook and cranny of the venue,” says Kumar.

That is a big examination as Aero India is spread across a few hundred acres. As we are ferried on a bus to the main entrance, we see workers painting the pavilions, JCB machines working on the ground and men shifting exhibition-related material out of containers.

Dos and Don’ts

* If you are planning a visit, make sure to book tickets online as on-site windows tickets cost ₹250 more than the online rates.

* Take alternate route to go to the airport and watch out for alerts closer to the event.

* Arrangements for parking for the public are made at Sector 4 (domestic area). Around 20 buses will ferry visitors to the venue.

* Look for updates on

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 4:23:12 AM |

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