Bangalore, Feb 7: Though they are only five they have grabbed all the attention at the Aero India 2013 show in Bangalore. A senior Chinese delegation from Beijing led by Air Vice Marshal Zheng Yuanlin has come for the first time to the air show.
Air Vice Marshal Yuanlin is heading a five-person Chinese group. China accepted the invitation sent rather late by India in January. The move came after a decision last September to resume joint military exercises following the first visit of a Chinese defence minister to New Delhi in eight years.
"It is a welcome step, even though we have long pending border issues," Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said. "We are trying to improve relations in all areas."
The Aero India 2011 saw New Delhi snub China along with Pakistan amid border tensions but the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi was allowed to attend in a negotiated compromise.
Antony said that a border management agreement signed by the countries had helped reduce tensions on the frontier between Tibet and north-eastern Indian states, but he warned about a military build up. "They are reinforcing infrastructure in a big way... The government of India is bound to modernise our armed forces. Strengthening our border by way of infrastructure by putting more assets there is our duty," he said.
Meanwhile, the big air show is being marred by bird menace near Yelahanka airforce station.
On the inaugural day, because of birds over airstrip, there was a full 25 minutes before the Dassault's Rafale fighter took off even as the spectators - which included defence minister AK Anthony, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, the top brass of the Indian Air Force, besides senior defence officials of several countries - waited patiently.
After a display by India's light combat aircraft, Tejas and the Czech national aerobatics team Flying Bulls a flock of kites were hovering above the runway. The bird hazard combat team of AFSY went into action, firing cluster firecrackers in the air to scare the birds away. But the birds were not scared.
Only after the space above the runway and the surroundings was cleared the Rafale take off. This is the first time Rafale performed aerobatics at the Aero India after India selected the fighter for the $1 billion contract for 126 medium-weight multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCAs).
HAL airport to open?
There is a possibility that Bangalore's old airport may again be opened for commercial operations, mainly for short-haul passenger flights. The Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd-owned airport was closed to civilian flights from May 24, 2008, when operations were shifted to the new airport at Devanahalli on the city's outskirts.
HAL Chairman R.K. Tyagi, speaking at the Aero India, said that he had already discussed the subject with the civil aviation authorities, and they had responded positively to the idea. "Nowhere in the world was the existing airport closed down to make way for a new one," Tyagi said and added that the HAL airport could be used for short-haul flights to Chennai.
Tyagi felt that the BIAL airport had reached its peak annual capacity of 12 million passengers, and a second airport would not hurt its interests.
The HAL chairman said since existing regulations don't allow two airports within a distance of 150 km from each other, the government would work around this, he said.