The 12th edition of the Aero India Show 2019 (20–24 February) that opens on Wednesday at the Air Force Station, Yelahanka and is organised every two years, is expected to be a watered-down version this time with a lower turnout of exhibitors and aircraft from India and abroad, compared with Aero India 2017.

This time, there are 403 registered exhibitors of which 238 are Indian companies and 165 are foreign companies. There will only be 61 aircraft at the show, unlike Aero India 2017, which attracted 549 registered exhibitors of which 270 were Indian and 279 foreign companies.

Negative contributors

Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Department of Defence Production (DDP), at a press conference, however, said number of registered exhibitors during the current aeroshow was 403 compared with 214 during the last version.

Prolonged uncertainty over the proposed venue for Aero India 2019, the notification of January 17, 2019 by the Commissioner of Customs, Bengaluru imposing customs duty on aircraft and equipment to be imported by exhibitors for display, the dampened market for aerospace industry products, the huge political controversy surrounding the acquisition of 36 Rafale jet fighters and the government’s single-minded push on ‘Make in India’ for Defence sector are some of the major factors contributing to a lukewarm Aero India event 2019, say industry experts who have been part of the event since its inception.

“The 12th edition of the Aero India Show will be a wash out this year with a much lower turnout of participants compared with the previous two editions. It takes over a year to plan to participate in the show and with the government’s decision to shift the venue last year to Bakshi Ka Talab air force base on the outskirts of Lucknow set in a rural area with woefully inadequate infrastructure to host such a mega event, after which they decided to host it in the original venue at Bengaluru, has contributed to lower participation. Saab which is a regular at all the shows decided to drop out because of this, like many others,” Air Marshal (retired) BK Pandey, former Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Training Command, IAF told BusinessLine .

Customs duty

Also, customs duty slapped on aircraft and equipment that are imported by exhibitors for display, which had to be paid online in advance although refundable when the imported equipment and aircraft are flown out of India is totally unwarranted and amounts to unnecessary harassment. This is being imposed for the first time in India and is not practised anywhere else in the world at other Air Shows.

A former senior general manager, HAL, said: “Interest in Aero India by exhibitors has been on the wane ever since the government has started its ‘Make in India for Defence’ campaign. “India is the world’s largest importer of major arms, equipment and weapon delivery platforms (fighter aircraft) and as a consequence every country that manufactures defence equipment wants to sell to India. Make in India for Defence does not resonate with foreign exporters.”

He said, nowhere in the world are Air Shows organised by aerospace industry players like HAL. Major companies only participate in a big way. Being an arm of the the government, HAL at the most could have shared some specific part of the responsibility in line with the nature of its products and services.

Tickets for the Aero India 2019 are priced at ₹ 600 for visitors to the Air Display to witness the flying display, and at ₹2,750 for business visitors for access into the exhibition area.

Visitors to the show can download Android and iOS versions of the Aero India mobile app and also take part in the Instagram Photo Contest to capture the ‘Aero India Moment’ which is open to all Indians residing in India. Public Wi-fi is available at the venue with a cut-off time of 45 minutes.