Emotional start to Aero India

First day sees daring aerobatic stunts, and a moving ‘missing person’ formation to honour Wg Cdr Sahil Gandhi, who died in a crash on Tuesday.
Last Updated 21 February 2019, 11:24 IST

The inaugural day of Aero India was a veritable aerial ballet that left spectators dazzled.

Sahil Gandhi was pilotingSuryakiran 7 when it went down.
Sahil Gandhi was piloting
Suryakiran 7 when it went down.

The audience was treated to breathtaking manoeuvres and daring formations by varied fighter jets and helicopters, including the Dakota DC-3, Dhruv, Rudra, Sukhoi 30 MKI, Saras, Tejas, Rafale, F-16 and Airbus. The show was so rivetting that even Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy were on the edge of their seats, eyes glued to the sky. Some units paid tribute to Suryakiran pilot Wg Cdr Sahil Gandhi, through slow fly pasts and a unique ‘missing man’ formation.

Gandhi was killed when his plane collided with another during a rehearsal on Tuesday.

Apart from these solemn moments, the ‘josh’ was indeed high among all present, helped by the spirited commentary and foot-tapping numbers by the Indian Air Force band.

After the inauguration, visitors took a close look at war flying machines like the Tejas, Sukhoi, Rafale, and also queued up to take selfies inside them.

What looked like a mannequin in one of the stalls is actually a man from the Russian ImperialArmy. His name is Timur and this ishis first visit to Bengaluru.
What looked like a mannequin in one of the
stalls is actually a man from the Russian Imperial
Army. His name is Timur and this is
his first visit to Bengaluru.

A number of foreign delegates milled around, observing the various Indian models on display.

A native of Belgium, Vanden Dries’ had never been to an aero show before. The excitement in his voice is palpable when he says, “The F-16 was the highlight of the show. Sukhoi 30 MkI was another star of the opening ceremony. It is not every day that one gets to see the world’s most powerful aircraft display its strength and ability. This is a memorable moment for me.”

Wg Cdr Xin Xin, 36, has 2,000 hours of flying to his credit. He has flown almost all fighter aircraft, and across the world, and wishes to fly more.

“The thrill of flying a fighter aircraft never dies down. It is addictive,” says Xin. At the display, he was impressed by the Sukhoi 30 MKI, Mi-17 and the Rafale for their speed and precision.

“I particularly liked the F-16 for its excellent manoeuvres and powerful engine,” he says.

Major General Liu Wenqiis visiting from China.
Major General Liu Wenqi
is visiting from China.

A team from the Chinese Air Force is on its first visit to Bengaluru. Talking to Metrolife, Major General Liu Wenqi, says, “I first landed in Delhi and found it to be a historical city. And now in Bengaluru, I found the people warm, hospitable and well-informed. I also find effort is put in to keep the city clean.”

He found the Tejas, the Sarang helicopter display team and the Rafale the best during the display.

“We hope to get more cooperation from India and also to invite our Indian friends to our country,” he told Metrolife.

Olivia Tchala, technical support officer for the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, is at Aero India for the first time. She is exploring trade connections. “I am looking forward to meeting the exhibitors and seeing the technical capabilities of Indians. The inaugural function was great and it was a pleasure to see the

Olivia Tchala, NATOtechnical support officer
Olivia Tchala, NATO
technical support officer

minister of defence attending the event. It is a sign of the importance of the exhibition,” she says.

Olivia would have loved to see the city, but says she is short of time.

(Published 20 February 2019, 13:57 IST)

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