History of Aero India

Issues Details: 
Vol 10 Issue 6 Jan - Feb 2017
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Tracing Aero India’s history since 1993, the first AVIA 93
Editorial Team
Monday, February 6, 2017

Two and a Half decades of AERO INDIA

Mapping the Origin and Journey of the Exposition

The eleventh edition of Aero India will be held at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru from 14 to 18 Feb 2017. Aero India 2017 will provide an important platform for bolstering business opportunities in the International aviation sector. The first exposition was held at Air Force Base, Yelahanka-Bengaluru, a fully operational airfield with adequate aircraft parking bays and indoor covered areas to accommodate exhibits. The organisers chose Bengaluru as the city predominantly leads in aviation and space activities in the country. The venue has not changed ever since, though the dates have been shifted from December to February. Beginning with 109 exhibitors in 1991, Bengaluru Airshow 2017 will have more than 750 exhibitors from India and abroad.

What inspired the Air Shows in India in the early 90s was the ‘open skies’ policy announced by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, coupled with modernisation plans of the Indian Air Force. It was anticipated at that time that aircraft manufacturers will continue to see bullish growth between 1994 and 2010 at an average rate of 6.1% annually. This was based on growth of liberalised Indian economy and in tourism, which was exceeding 12% annual growth rate at that time. Requirements of Indian Air Force and Navy were factored in and the future seemed promising. To add to this encouraging picture, Department of Space was expected to spend another Rs100 billion on its programmes for Satellites and Launch vehicles. The Make in India initiative of PM Modi will give a further fillip to the event. The PM had urged this initiative during the 2015 show.


AVIA INDIA’91 was India’s first and South Asia’s only exhibition on Aerospace, Aviation and Airports.

The air show was organised in association with the IAF and HAL. It was inaugurated by Mr. MadhavraoScindia, Minister of Civil Aviation, India. The inaugural lecture was delivered by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N. C. Suri, PVSM, AVSM, VM. The exposition focused on aerospace, aviation, airport equipment and services. Static and flying displays of indigenous and international aircraft together with aero engines and other accessories marked the first air show. Its success paved way for subsequent editions to follow, each time with a larger number of participants. Some of the exhibitors included AIT Corporation, British Aerospace, Ballooning Club of India, General Electric Aircraft Engines, Lockheed Aeronautical Systems, Motorola Singapore, Ilyushin Design Bureau, Raytheon Canada Ltd, The Boeing Company, Tupelov Design Bureau, HAL India, Sukhoi and Pratt & Whitney etc.


Show Window for Indigenous Products

AVIA INDIA 93 was intended to be the show window for India’s own impressive array of Aerospace and Aviation Systems, products, technologies and services. Commemorating the 90th anniversary of the flight of Wright Brothers’ ‘Kitty Hawk’, the event was held from 15th to 18th December,1993. Exhibits from ISRO, systems of DRDO, Aircraft of the National Aeronautics Laboratory(NAR-CSIR), Navigation and Communication Systems of the National Airports Authority(NAA), Aviation and Aerospace based products and systems from leading Indian manufactures such as Bharat Electronics, Bharat Earth Movers, and Gujarat Communications etc. Airport equipment and services too came into sharp focus.

Participants at AVIA INDIA’93 included Avia export, Boeing, Bombardier, British Aerospace, DASA, Dassault, GE and Rolls Royce.

In conjunction with the exposition a high level technical conference was organised in association with Aeronautical Society of India, who were celebrating their Golden Jubilee year.



Re christened as AERO INDIA the exposition in 1996 continued at the same venue i.e. Air Force Station Yelahanka, Bengaluru. The air show was held from December 3-7 and elicited enthusiastic response from numerous countries and aviation related organizations.  Broadly, the twin objectives of the exposition were to project the capability of India in the field of aeronautics and to expose the Indian defence industry to the latest international developments in aeronautics.

The air show was inaugurated by Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda on December 3.  Participation by the USA, the UK, Israel, France, Germany and Russia ensured that the latest technologies were on display.  Over hundred foreign exhibitors and fifty Indian exhibitors were present at the show.

Infrastructure development was the key feature of the first AERO INDIA. Air Force Station Yelahanka put forward proposals for necessary infrastructural wherewithal and facilities to make the station a befitting locale for such a prestigious event.  The proposals that were put forward were basis the consideration that Air Force Station Yelahanka would be the permanent venue for future air shows. 

The first ever AERO INDIA exposition also highlighted the growing importance of airports in the liberalized civil aviation scenario as the “hubs” of economic activities in the Asian region, synonymous of the increasing air traffic, passengers and freight.


Despite the U.S. Sanctions, Aero India ‘98 attracts large Overseas Participation

AERO India ‘98 the biennial air show at Yelahanka, Bengaluru, took off on the morning of 08 December.  Defence Minister George Fernandes inaugurated it.  A ceremonial fly past by aircraft from Indian Air Force and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited took place; the aerobatic display by Surya Kirans was the highlight of the day’s event.

The five day long biennial air show in 1998 attracted 110 international companies from 17 countries apart from 60 Indian participants. Apart from 50 aircraft from Indian manufacturers, the show attracted quite a few state-of-art aircraft such as the SU-30, SU-33, MiG-AT, Mirage 2000, Falcon 2000, ATR-42, Hawk 200, MiG-21 UM, AN-38-100, II-114 and a few UAVs from abroad.

Prominent among the Indian Aircraft on static and flying display were the Jaguar, MiG-27, Dornier 228, Lancer, Chetak, Cheetah, Pushpak and Hansa 3, the Airborne Surveillance Platform from CABS etc.

During the expo, the defence minister took the opportunity to invite China and Pakistan to join the show in future editions.


LCA Steals the Show

‘Aero India 01’ opened its door against the backdrop of the LCA’s maiden flight in November 01. “The world’s smallest, lightest combat aircraft has met the most stringent requirement of design and manufacture”, said Mr. George Fernandes, India’s Defence Minister, whilst inaugurating the third Aero India 2001 show at the Yelahanka Air Force Station.  Apparently pleased with the response both in term of exhibitors and international presence, the defence minister urged the august gathering of defence personnel, entrepreneurs in the Indian Aerospace Industry and other invitees to take advantage of the exhibition to build their international network.

This was the first time that the Air show was held during the month of February, unlike the previous editions, held during the month of December.

The 2001 exhibition, held from 7-11 February 01, attracted 220 international exhibitors and 70 Indian exhibitors from more than 34 countries. 


Aero India re-emerges as a Hub for Global Defence Merchandise

Aero India -2003 held in the backdrop of liberalization and globalization assumed a special significance.  As part of the continued reforms process, the private participation in the defence sector of India seemed to have become a reality.

Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna, who presided over the Aero India inauguration, mentioned that over a period of time Bengaluru had carved for itself a niche in the aerospace matrix of the country.  As part of the continued re-forms process, the private participation in the defence sector of India has become a reality.

The show threw up the possibility of sourcing hardware and forging alliances for joint production and marketing of aerospace hardware as the Defence Industry in India had been opened up for private participation with 26% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

The show boasted of an increased indoor space of 8570 sq m as compared to 4500 sq m in 1996. 176 foreign companies from 22 countries participated in the exhibition with 68 aircraft on display. 75 companies from India added to the list of participants.


Aero India 2005 Inaugurated amidst much Fanfare

Aero India 2005 show got underway with the Union Defence Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee declaring the Aero India 2005 open amongst an august assembly of organizers, exhibitors, delegates, VIP’s, media and select invitees.

Speaking on the occasion Mr. Mukherjee stated that this event would provide a platform for aeronautical companies to showcase their capabilities and provide stimulus for trade, joint ventures, collaborations and technology transfers globally. 

A new state of the art hangar was inaugurated by Sh B K Handique, MoS for Defence & Parliamentary Affairs. The hangar added 4,200 sq m to the indoor exhibition area, an increase of 30 per cent. More than 236 international and 136 Indian exhibitors, along with 60 aircraft participated in the show. Business was pursued by more than 35 international delegations. Boeing and EADS were optimistic about securing huge orders from India. HAL released CAD image of the latest HJT-39 Combat Attack Trainer.  Lockheed Martin highlighted their C-130j, P-3C and F-16.


Awesome Response for Aero India’07

The 6th International Aerospace and Defence Exhibitions had many reasons to be one of the biggest shows in the world. 

This year’s Aero India had 500 participant companies, up from 380 in the previous year.  With a 30 per cent growth on an event-to-event basis, it was a very good indicator of the response we were receiving from foreign exhibitors. For the first time a total of 35 chiefs of the air force of various countries participated in the exhibition.

Companies from the U.S. launched a high voltage campaign, with the Ambassador hosting a press conference on the eve of the air show. The importance of the show to the U.S. was evident with a record 52 companies participating in the show.

Civil Aviation Minister, Mr. Patel welcomed private equity in the aviation sector. Proposed merger of Air India with Indian Airlines around this time was indicative of changing policies in the aviation sector. Various helicopter manufacturers saw opportunities in India, with BELL exploring the possibility of expanding ties with HAL.


MMRCA Steals the Show

Organised against the backdrop of MMRCA trials, the expo was dominated by the roar of jet engines of the aircraft under evaluation. The aerobatics were mesmerising. Held from 11-15 Feb, the 7th edition of Aero India attracted 289 Indian firms and 303 foreign companies in one of the largest international aerospace exhibitions in Bengaluru. Armament majors from several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Britain, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, Ukraine and United States. There were also country pavilions from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Israel and Romania. This year also saw China participating for the first time in Aero India.

The show was preceded by an international seminar on aerospace technologies and applications (9–11 February). Nearly 330 companies from 50 countries abroad and 230 from India set up exhibits.

While 30 military and civil aircraft gave flight demonstrations, some 70 more were on static display. Defence Minister A. K. Antony chaired the first meeting of the apex committee of the exhibition. Addressing the top officials from several ministries and organizations, Antony said “Aero India-2009 should be conducted in such a manner that it provides a benchmark for similar shows being organized in various parts of the world”.

The Indian Air Force brought out some of the vintage aircraft from its stable and flew them. The defence ministry also facilitated interaction between the overseas original equipment manufacturers and Indian business houses. The central government promised to spend nearly INR 200 million to augment the infrastructure in and around Air Force Station Yelahanka.


MMRCA continues to dominate the Show

The 2011 edition of Aero India was held from 9 to 13 February in Bengaluru. It was reported that the Chinese aircraft will not participate in this edition, due to rising trade competition between India and China. However, these claims were false and China had its representatives present there.

The highlights were the flight displays, in which several aircraft performed intricate manoeuvres. HAL Tejas, which flew in a formation in public view for the first time, was a key highlight, as it performed a vertical climb and then did a belly turn right in front of the podium. While five Jaguars flew in a V-formation, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI flew in a trident formation. Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale also performed loops, rolls, and somersaults in the air. The aerobatic team Surya Kiran did their last show with their Kiran aircraft which are planned to be replaced by new BAE Hawk aircraft. The aerobatic team of Czech Republic popularly known as Flying Bulls or Red Bull also performed for the first time.


Globemaster looks Majestic

Aero India 2013 started on 6 February 2013 at the IAF’s Yelahanka Air Force base, Bengaluru and ended on 10 February 2013. 607 companies attended the air show, with 352 foreign and 78 official national delegations. The major foreign companies were from US (67 companies), France (49), United Kingdom (33), Russia (29) and Germany (22).

Major attractions of this edition were the Dassault Rafale, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, HAL Rudra, HAL Tejas, HAL Light Combat Helicopter, and the Russian Knights aerobatic team, who had come to India to perform for the first time. Major aircraft manufacturing companies like Lockheed Martin, Saab, and the British Aerospace did not showcase any aircraft this time as the short listing of MMRCA dampened enthusiasm. However, an air force F-16 was part of the static display. The Suryakiran aerobatic team also did not take part as it was grounded.


Make in India: The Punch Line

Aero India 2015, held from 18 to 22 February 2015, was inaugurated by PM Modi.

Aero India 2015 came with the ‘Make in India’ theme which focused on Aerospace, Defence, Civil Aviation, Airport Infrastructure and Defence Engineering and attracted a record number of participants from both the International and domestic Indian industry.

There was participation of exhibitors from 33 countries with 644 companies (326 overseas + 318 domestic) and 46 overseas delegations, which was accommodated over a gross exhibition area of 108,250 sqm, nearly 44% more than the previous edition held in 2013.

The Tejas, which had earlier taken part in formation flying in the 2011 exhibition, this time around show cased its ‘skills’ a little more by taking part in aerobatics alongside the Dassault Rafael which had been declared the MMRCA winner.

There were scintillating and enthralling displays by Indian Air Force Sarang Team, air display teams from Sweden, UK, Czech Republic and open sky jumps by the USA Special Forces.  One minor grey area was that the civil aviation sector was a little subdued.

As the latest edition, AeroIndia 2017, gets underway, enthusiasm is palpable and we look forward to another grand event resulting in definite takeaways in terms of technology, commercials and joint ventures in the aerospace domain.

Military Affairs