Govt may revert to holding just one big air show every year
New Delhi: India plans to return to its earlier practice of organizing biennial air shows that combined displays of both civilian and defence air power, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
India used to hold a single combined biennial air show in Bengaluru, organized by the air force, until 2008 when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) decided that there was scope for a separate air show for the growing civil aviation sector. Following the decision, Hyderabad’s Begumpet air show started being held every second year.
“It’s a waste of resources, we would rather have one big air show,” said a government official, one of the two people mentioned above. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.
While the Bengaluru air show was held as planned earlier this year, the civilian show slated for March in Hyderabad will now be an exhibition. This means it may not have any aerobatic displays and no big planes like the Airbus A380 or Boeing 787 will participate, said a second person familiar with the matter, who also declined to be named. The name of the Hyderabad show has also been changed from India Aviation to Wings India.
Typically, airlines such as Air India and large West Asian carriers like Qatar Airways and Emirates, for whom the Indian market is critical, parade their latest planes at these shows. Air shows had also become the venue the likes of Vijay Mallya, owner of the now-grounded Kingfisher Airlines, and others placed their large orders.
Last year, about 29 aircraft including a Boeing B777 flown by Air India, an Airbus A350 by Qatar Airways, an Airbus A330 by AirAsia, a Boeing 787 by Etihad, an Airbus A380 by Emirates and an Airbus A320neo by Air India participated in the air show at Hyderabad.
“The aviation ministry is of the view that we should skip this,” said the second of the two people cited earlier, adding “they would like Hyderabad show to focus on cargo so we are looking at brining cargo planes if at all they come”.
What might happen is that the Hyderabad exhibition could feature smaller planes like Honda’s regional planes, which could dovetail well with the government’s Udan regional connectivity scheme. Under the scheme, at least half the seats on every regional flight should have a fare cap of Rs2,500 per seat per hour of flying.
Typically, manufacturers only bring planes to India if they see scope for selling them. Otherwise they set up chalets with models of these planes, keeping the bigger displays for the Paris, Farnborough and Singapore air shows, among others.
Former air force chief Fali Major said combining the two shows was a good decision. “We will have to see what all is ordered in the next one year, depending on that we will see what all flies in during the 2019 show in Bangalore,” Major said, referring to the several big-ticket defence deals that have already been concluded by the government, including the one for Rafale fighter jets.
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