Aero India 2013 takes off, focus on civilian aviation
Clearly out of the shadows of the multi-billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract that dominated its last edition, the ninth edition of Aero India kickstarted in Bangalore on Wednesday, but not without sending some subtle messages. While a significant presence of the Army aviation was clearly visible, notable among the participants were the civilian aircraft manufacturers — almost 50 of the total 627 participants, including 352 from overseas.
With this as the backdrop, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh promised the exhibitors that Aero India 2013 will offer a number of business opportunities to the private aviation companies. In what has primarily being conceptualised as an Air Force/space centric show, the shift of focus was visible when the minister gave a complete overview of the Indian civil aviation market and said that the growth rate of the civil aviation sector in India has been 15 per cent a year and that the domestic traffic has been touching 80 million per annum.
This was followed by Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar who, while briefing the exhibitors' gathering, projected Karnataka as the destination for investors to invest in aerospace business.
In his inaugural address, Defence Minister A K Antony too expressed satisfaction over the increased participation of domestic industries at Aero India and said that efforts are on to create strong indigenous defence production base.
This year's Aero India has been a toned down version of the previous edition when the MMRCA contract was yet to be signed and the six contenders for the fighter aircraft were ensured that breathtaking displays and sorties would be put up.
While the inaugural ceremony was marked by sorties of Tiger Moth — the restored first trainer aircraft of the IAF — the real show stealers of the day were the scintillating aerobatic displays by the French Rafale aircraft which will be making it to the IAF fleet in the near future as the winners of the MMRCA contract.