India is perhaps the only major country that holds two separate air shows dedicated to military and civil aviation. It is time to merge the two.
It is well known that the two premier air shows of the world are the Farnborough International Air Show in the United Kingdom (UK) and The International Paris Air Show in France. While these global air shows are held at a single venue and demonstrate all aspects of air power, India holds separate air shows and exhibitions at different venues and at different times for military and civil aviation. The first Aero India, a biennial air show and aviation exhibition was held in 1996 at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. So far 11 editions of Aero India have been held. India too held a combined event, like all world air shows, in which the civil and military industry took part, however, that lasted till 2007. Now, India holds a separate Civil Aviation Air Show at the Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad in the neighbouring state of Telangana. The biennial air show held in Hyderabad began in 2008. While global air shows are held and managed by respective defence ministries, Aero India is organised by the Defence Ministry of India and the Civilian Air Show at Hyderabad is held under the aegis of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
A case for a merged air show
Many observers agree that both air shows have now matured with experience and it is now time to merge them. They point out that a consolidated air show would prove beneficial for the participants, as a majority of the exhibitors are civilianmilitary aerospace companies, which thus end up dividing their show budget between the two events. Also, with India shopping for military aircraft for all its three defence service wings, aligned with the high growth story of civil aviation, it would be an appropriate time for the two air shows to be merged.
Writes Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Fali Homi Major: “Given the fact that Bengaluru is the aviation capital of the country, it must continue to be the venue for a merged Aero India in 2019. This will increase the scope and participation of our own indigenous military and civil aviation aerospace and ancillary industries and make it more dynamic and sustainable in the coming years.” Bengaluru also houses many defence manufacturing enterprises. However, some leading aviation and defence experts believe that there is need to examine the possibility if the air show can be shifted near the national capital, New Delhi. Two reasons are cited in favour. One, it will cut down the air travel time of visiting participants. Most global participants first travel from their own manufacturing base in respective countries to their own capital city from where they board flight to Delhi or Mumbai to reach the venue of Aero Show at Bengaluru or Civil Aviation Air Show at Hyderabad.
Two, the Ministry of Defence, MoCA or private civil aviation players are headquartered in Delhi with whom global aviation MNCs would want to hold discussions for exploring business opportunities.
In modern aviation industry, the two are closely linked, with spin-offs into each other, especially from the military to the civil. This is especially true of technology being sold and developed. Points out Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies: “Air Show must convey the seriousness that is attached to the aviation sector and acknowledge the fact, and be reflective of the reality that India is one of the biggest and a fast expanding market in both, the civil and military sectors. This is possible only if the Aero India and India Aviation air shows are combined back into one single flagship event.”
When the Aero India show was inaugurated in February this year the main podium announced the event as being held jointly by the MoCA and Ministry of Defence. This change is already evident, but not well publicised.