A view of six decades of HAL's achievements

BANGALORE, AUG. 30. Cockpit simulars giving you a feel of piloting a fighter aircraft; a pictorial odyssey of Indian aviation history; real-size aircraft models to gaze endlessly; air traffic controlling. The City's latest tourist attraction which opened on Thursday--the HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum--has all that and more.

Dubbed India's first public museum on aviation, the Heritage Centre is a mixture of aviation tidbits and photographs, technological innovations and aviation design models, the past and present, with a glimpse of what lies ahead. Positioned barely 2 km. from the Bangalore Airport on the Airport-Varthur Road, the museum was thrown open to the public by the Minister for Tourism and Wakfs, Mr. R.Roshan Baig.

Six decades of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). That is a story of achievements and humble beginnings, of designing indigenous fighter planes and licensed production, all told through pictures and models galore. Each decade occupies a separate enclosure, with photographs and aviation-related stamps displayed in translite form. Models of satellites and launch vehicles talk about HAL's contribution to the Indian Space programmes.

Over to the section on Aircraft Manufacturing Technologies, an enclosure showcasing the changes over 60 years. From materials to manufacturing technologies, engines and engine testing to aircraft systems and testing, the section is a student special.

The museum's exterior is a virtual mosaic of aircraft and helicopters, designed, developed and built by the HAL, standing alongside the ones produced under licence. From the trainers--Hindustan Trainer (HT-2), Pushpak and Kiran to the Fighters--Marut (HF-24), MiG, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the Canberra Bomber, the outdoor display moves on to the transport variety, the Devons, Dorniers and the Utility (Basant). Matching the high speed fighters are the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), the Chetak and Cheetah. A closer look reveals an overdose of technical info, on performance, on build and more.

The centre is also about video film screenings of airshows and aviation details, brought alive in a mini theatre with multimedia projectors. The engines on display give a lesson on their working principles. Cut-out models of the Artouste engine of the Cheetah/Chetak, the Dart engine of HS-748 transport aircraft, the Garrettt engine of Dornier and Orpheus of Kiran add weight to the pictures.

Cockpit simulators: But a definite attraction should be the two cockpit simulators aimed at giving the visitors a first-hand experience of the basic operations involved in aircraft flying. ``The simulators are capable of teaching both basic and advanced flying of various types of aircraft. A multimedia projection system is used to magnify the view as seen from the cockpit onto a bigger screen. With the sound effect, flying in a cockpit simulator will be a thrilling experience for everyone,'' said an HAL official.

Air traffic control tower: Taking advantage of the museum's proximity to the runway, a dummy Air Traffic Control Tower resembling the Bangalore Airport original, has been set up atop the building. ``This will enable visitors to see actual landing and take-off of aircraft. The working principle of various equipment and instruments used in Air Traffic Control will be demonstrated to the visitors.''

The centre also features an Aero Modelling Club to guide and assist students and enthusiasts create aircraft flying models. ``This club will give an insight on the technologies involved in aircraft building, besides training in designing, fabricating and flying of different aero models,'' explained the official. Club membership is open to all children above 12 years.

A Heritage Library, a 1:10 scale model of the Geo-Stationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and a souvenir shop completes the museum picture. Admission is through tickets. Adults and children are charged separately, and separate tickets have to be purchased for the Simulators, Air Traffic Control Tower and Video films at the mini theatre.