Aero India 2021: Undaunted by Covid-19, Asia's biggest air show promises a lot

Aero India 2021 comes with elaborate Covid-19 restrictions and protocols. A negative RT-PCR test result has been made mandatory for the attendees

Aero India 2021: Undaunted by Covid-19, Asia's biggest air show promises a lot
A Surya Kiran aerobatics team at Aero India 2011. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Quietsong

Aero India, which is Asia's largest aerospace exhibition, would be held from February 3 to 5, 2021, at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru. The event this year would be the first global air show organised in the Covid-19 era. Other air shows like the Australian International Air Show and the Paris Air Show have been postponed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Aero India 2021, the 13th edition of the biennial event, would be a hybrid show, which means that delegates would be present either physically or virtually, according to a Live Mint report. It would be held on an indigenously-developed virtual exhibition platform on a hybrid model. The event would be held from 1 pm on February 3 and between 9 am to 6 pm on the next two days, according to a report in The Hindu.  

The exhibition would help industry professionals to gain market insights, announce new developments and gain media coverage. It would provide a platform for exhibitors to showcase their products to potential customers and investors. The products would be displayed using the latest technology. The international aviation sector would be eyeing this event to bolster business.

This year, the event would feature 41 aircraft, including the Dakota, Sukhoi-30MKI and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), besides the MI-17, Light Combat Helicopter, Embraer and C-17 Globemaster, the military transport aircraft, in the flight display, while 63 aircraft would be on static display. According to Chief of Air Force Station in Bengaluru Air Commodore Shailendra Sood, the Chinook helicopter is also expected to be part of the air display.  

Source: Twitter/@MoCA_GoI

The major attraction would be the displays by the Surya Kiran aircraft and Sarang helicopters. Air Commodore Sood informed that the Surya Kiran and Sarang teams would come together for the first time for a combined aerobatics performance at this year's event. 

Surya Kiran is the aerobatics demonstration team of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The squadron was made up of the HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk2 military trainer aircraft till 2011. The team was disbanded in February 2011 and re-established with the Hawk Mk-132 aircraft in 2017. Two Surya Kiran aircraft crashed at the previous edition of Aero India in 2019 resulting in the death of a pilot. Sarang is a helicopter air display team that flies four modified HAL Dhruv helicopters, also called the Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs).    

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The IAF's 'gamechanger' fighter jet Rafale is also likely to be a part of the inaugural fly past, according to The Hindu. The report added that the public would not be allowed at this year's event, and not more than 15,000 visitors would be allowed at the exhibition area, in line with Covid-19 restrictions. Participation would also be capped at 3,000 visitors in the air display area. 

Aero India 2021 comes with elaborate Covid-19 restrictions and protocols. A negative RT-PCR test result has been made mandatory for the attendees. "Whoever wishes to attend the event has to have a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report without which there will be no entry," Air Commodore Sood said, according to Live Mint. The report should be from a test done within 72 hours of the scheduled entry at the Aero India venue, according to a tweet by the ministry of civil aviation (MoCA). More specifically, the report should be from a test done at 9 am on January 31, 2021, or later, the tweet said. 

The report, along with personal details, has to be uploaded to the specified online portal. The report then would be validated by a medical team, and after that, clearance would be provided. Without this clearance, the entry would not be permitted at the event. 

Zlín Z-50s of The Flying Bulls aerobatics team at Aero India 2013. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Anand t83

International travellers are required to submit a self-declaration preferably online within 72 hours before the scheduled travel or physically after arrival at the respective health counters. An undertaking also has to be submitted on the online portal or the civil aviation website, according to the Aero India website.

Those seeking exemption from quarantine need to apply digitally at least 72 hours before boarding and submit a report from a Covid test done within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey. A declaration has also be provided regarding the authenticity of the test report. Delegates coming from countries experiencing a second Covid-19 wave are required to undergo a test after landing and furnish their travel history.           

Business or short-visit travellers, coming for 48 hours (counted from the date of arrival) would not need to go through Covid tests and quarantine. All international delegates have to have a confirmed return flight not more than 14 days later from the date of travel. 

Domestic delegates are required to follow the Covid-19 safety protocols issued by the airlines. No quarantine is prescribed for domestic travellers. They, however, have to download the Arogya Setu app and present their status on the app as an enabler for verification and submit a self-declaration form.    

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Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport, which is located 15.5 km from the Aero India venue at the Yelahanka Air Force Station, would partially shut operations for a week as a result of the closure of airspace. The airport would not operate flights for 33 hours, starting from a few days before the show, till its conclusion. 

As part of the security cover for the show, the Karnataka government would prohibit drones from flying in a 100km radius of the venue. The IAF would deploy two AN-32 and two MI-17 helicopters for casualty evacuation, and Su-30MKI and MI-17 helicopters as part of a three-tier air security umbrella.

Aero India is a flagship programme of the ministry of defence, with collaboration by the ministry of civil aviation, IAF, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), department of space, and other such organisations. It was first organised in 1996, and since then has attained great international recognition.

This year, to create momentum, the MoCA has already organised a seminar focused on Atmanirbhar Bharat and aerospace manufacturing in India, Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation told CNBC Awaaz.

(Cover image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Quietsong)