Flying back in time

One of a kind: The HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum in Bengaluru is a rich repository of India's aviation memorabilia.

Flying back in time
Before Bengaluru came to be known as India’s Silicon Valley, it was known as the research hub of India. Several public sector companies such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) and the New Government Electrical Factory (NGEF) made the city their headquarters. Each company contributed to the growth of the city and left behind a rich legacy.  HAL is one such company and the HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum established in 2001 traces the country’s aviation history. The museum located on the Old Airport Road has the distinction of being the first aviation museum of India.

As soon as one enters the museum, one can find aeroplanes and helicopters lined for display on the left. Behind the exhibits to the left are a sustainability development park, herbal garden and an orchid green house. To their right are more planes.

A diverse range

The first exhibit to the left is a blue Marut (HF-24) Trainer, an aircraft designed and developed by HAL under Dr Kurt Tank. It was first flown in June 1961. It is a two seater with a twin-engine. The second exhibit is a green MIG-21 Fighter. Such planes were built under USSR’s license between 1966 and 1987. The third exhibit on display is a red Hindustan Jet Trainer (HJT)-36 IJT, an aircraft that was developed by the Indian Air Force.

The fourth aircraft is a white, single-seat, single engine, light-weight Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Advanced for its times, it was first flown in 2001. Beside this is a small, red-and-white, Lakshya pilot-less target aircraft. This is a high-speed remotely piloted aerial vehicle which can be launched from land or from a ship. It was designed by Aeronautical Development Establishment, a division of Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Also on display are a Devon, a intermediate jet trainer plane called Kiran (HJT-16) and a Hansa. While Kiran is manufactured by the HAL, Hansa is made by the National Aerospace Laboratories. Behind the museum is a HPT-32 trainer manufactured by the HAL.

The indoor display has a variety of exhibits. The first hall comprises an aircraft and engine indoor display room on the ground floor. One such is the HUL-26 Pushpak. This is a two-seater cabin monoplane made by HAL and was first flown in 1958. The museum also has a display of various aeroplane engines. There is also an HAL Basant on display beside the Pushpak. This is an agricultural monoplane that was used for spraying operations. There are simulator rooms on the first floor. A basic simulator game for kids and a motion simulator for adults are also available.

Tracing the growth

The entrance of the second hall leads to an open courtyard with seven rooms around it. Each room is dedicated to the different decades of HAL’s existence. Photographs adorn the wall while pictures of planes from each era hang from the roof. Miniature models of HAL’s planes are placed in a large glass case.

The room dedicated to the 1940s and 1950s has pictures of planes such as the HAL glider, Krishak, the Tigermoth aircraft, Pushpak aircraft and the Canberra. During this time, a number of foreign planes such as the Harlow trainer were made under license. The exhibit room dedicated to the 1960s has pictures of aircrafts like a Walrus seaplane, Devon aircraft, Rohini glider and Marut (HF-24). Between 1971 and 1980, HAL made Chetak and Cheetah helicopters, Ajeet fighter planes and Kiran MK-II aircrafts. In the 1980s, HAL made planes such as the ATS-1 Ardhra glider and the Jaguar trainer. The HAL planes of the 1990s included the Lakshya pilot-less target planes and the MIG-29 fighters. Planes of 2000 and beyond include the Intermediate Jet Trainers and the Sukhoi (SU-30) fighters. The last room is the hall of fame that showcases HAL’s achievements.

Walking through the museum is a lesson well learnt on how aviation has evolved in the country. The museum is open between 9 am and 5 pm on all days. To know more, visit
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