The case for a single, merged air show

India is perhaps the only country in the world that holds air shows separately for defence and civil aviation


Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

The aerospace industry ranks among the world’s largest manufacturing industries in terms of people employed and value of output. Aerospace was one of the defining industries of the 20th century.

As a socio-political phenomenon, aerospace has captured the imagination of the young around the world, inspired new schools of industrial design, decisively bolstered both the self-image and power of the nation state, and shrunk the effective size of the globe.

As an economic phenomenon, aerospace has consumed a major portion of research and development funds across many fields, subsidised innovation in a vast array of component technologies, spurred the construction of enormous manufacturing complexes, inspired technology-sensitive managerial techniques, supported regional economies, and justified the deeper incursion of national governments into their economies.

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No other industry has so persistently and intimately interacted with the bureaucratic apparatus of the nation state.

Aerospace technology encompasses many other industries-logistics, telecommunications, electronics, computing, advanced materials, travel and many more. But perhaps the most important characteristic of aerospace technology is its multi-pronged application in military aviation, civil aviation and space.

Why is it then, that we in India hold separate air shows and exhibitions at different venues and at different times for military and civil aviation? We are perhaps the only country in the world that holds aero shows separately for defence and civil aviation.

In the rest of the world, and especially in advanced countries, both military and civilian aircraft/helicopters and other aerospace products are manufactured by the same aerospace industry.

It would become so much simpler logistically and economically for them to showcase and exhibit their platforms/systems once every two years, instead of the present schedule in India where they need to do so every year alternately for military and civil platforms/systems.

The biennial Aero India shows in Bengaluru (military aviation) and Hyderabad (civil aviation), have now matured with the experience gained over the years and it is time now that the two are merged.

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.

Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Fali H. Major is former chief of the Indian Air Force.

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