Bengaluru: Preparations for the 13th edition of Aero India-21 have gained momentum with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the nodal agency, putting in place plans for a smooth show, under pandemic protocols.
Owing to the prevailing COVID-19 social distancing norms, there will be several restrictions in place for the show this time.
The biennial Plane Carnival will be at Air Force Station Yelahanka from February 3 to 7, with the first three days reserved for business and the last two for public.
"This year's show will be as per the COVID-19 protocols. The Karnataka Government COVID team has suggested restricting the number of visitors on public days (February 6 & 7). A final decision will be taken soon," an official said.
Sharing details of the COVID-19 protocols to be implemented at the show, the official said that auto thermal sensors and auto thermal image scanners will be positioned at main entrance gates of AFS Yelahanka.
"Arrangements will be in place for towing of vehicles for COVID-19 suspects," an official said.
The organisers are also setting up isolation rooms for COVID-19 suspects.
"These rooms will have basic amenities like cot with mattress, chair, table, pedestal fan, mobile charging point and a medical attendant (to be provided by the Karnataka Government.) Also, hand sanitizers, oximeter, thermometer, PPE kits and face masks will also be in place. An ICU on wheels will also be available," the official said.
Auto sanitizer dispensers and foot-operated dispensers will be placed at various locations at the air base.
"We are planning creation of a holding bay for about 1000 personnel each at two locations. Real time monitoring of crowd inside the hangar will also be done on a regular basis. A dedicated lane for vehicle movement with single entry and exit is also being planned," the official added.
CCTVs will ensure social distancing norms and crowd control. Service providers and exhibitors will ensure frequent sanitization of golf carts and halls.
IAF all set
The IAF had preparations for the air show in May this year, amid pandemic restrictions in place across the base. The HQ Training Command had the first meeting with all stakeholders from the Karnataka Government and HAL in July.
"Various committees were formed detailing with subjects like infrastructure, security, health emergencies, anti-COVID measures, fire, disaster management (inside/outside the venue) and transportation of visitors. These committees have had several rounds of meetings so far at working level," an IAF official said.
An Additional Secretary from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had visited AFS Yelahanka in August to review the preparations for the Plane Carnival.
Karnataka Government Chief Secretary from T M Vijay Bhaskar too had reviewed the preparations in October.
Recently, Air Marshal R D Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command assessed the operational efficiency and preparedness of IAF for Aero India 21 at AFS Yelahanka.
"MoD has got good response from domestic as well as international customers so far. The response has been encouraging when compared to last show. We expect more participants from abroad closer to the date," an IAF official said.
Meanwhile, the officials from Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike inspected the progress of work on the ORR-Bagalur Main Road, expected to be completed by January end. During air show, this stretch will act as an alternate passage to Kempegowda International Airport.
Noida-based Pavilions and Interiors (P&I) India Pvt Ltd has been given the contract for the entire exhibition design, fabrication, interiors, overlay and structures at the show.
As the Official Fabricator, P&I will be the sole agency now responsible to build the hangars, stalls, chalets and other temporary structures to be set up at the air show.
This time, P&I will be the sole agency who will also look at various other aspects of the show, including event management, private security arrangements and setting up logistical arrangements inside the base.
"For better coordination and effective management of the show, we felt a single agency would be ideal," the official added.
The organizers claim that almost 94 per cent of the exhibition space has been already lapped by various exhibitors. The total exhibitor count on the official Aero India website stands at 482 from 14 countries.
With the organizers putting in place measures to boost participants' confidence towards the show being cognizant and in conformance with prevailing pandemic related guidelines and safeguards, Onmanorama sought the views of few hardcore aviation afficiandoes.
"With concerns of a second wave of COVID-19 now across several parts of the world, wonder what steps will the organizers have to ensure that everything is in place," says Ebin George, a young entrepreneur and a regular to the Plane Carnival.
Jeevish Gurumoorthi, an aerospace and defence professional, hoped that the organisers at Aero India 2021 would have more creative ways of business engagement.
"Conventional pavilions and chalets may not comply with global COVID-19 management guidelines. The organisers must facilitate a parallel virtual engagement mechanism for global participants to showcase their technology and engage," says Jeevish.
For Uday Bhaskar, a networking and systems professional, the biennial show has been a much-awaited event for a memorable family outing.
"The show all these years has been a family event with everyone excited at home. Hope it will be the same this time as well. We are all eagerly waiting for Aero India," says Uday.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)