Asia’s biggest air show turns into carnival on final day

February 15th, 2009 - 10:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 15 (IANS) Asia’s biennial international air show near here turned into a carnival Sunday with about 80,000 visitors flocking the venue for a glimpse of the magnificent flying machines and assorted aerospace products and technologies.

With the Indian Air Force (IAF) base at Yelahanka, about 20 km from the city, thrown open to the public since morning during the weekend, chaos ruled on ground zero even as fighter jets scrambled and aerobatic pilots enthralled the dazed spectators - men, women, children and the old alike.

“About 200,000 visitors, including 50,000 business delegates attended the mega event since Wednesday (Feb 11). The participation was maximum Saturday and Sunday as the public was allowed since morning,” Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) deputy director general Gurpal Singh told reporters at a valedictory briefing.

Singh, however, was quick to admit that hundreds of people were turned away on the last day due to security restrictions in a sensitive and highly protected area and that all the tickets for the show were sold out.

“We were not able to accommodate everyone, particularly those who came-calling at the last minute. All tickets for visitors and complimentary passes got exhausted,” Singh said.

Security constraints at the IAF air base has put paid to the organisers’ efforts to regulate the surging crowds and ease the choc-a-bloc traffic on the National Highway (NH-7) leading to the international airport.

Stringent securing measures, frisking and scanning of personal belongings, including mobiles and handbags at the entry point, made the restless visitors to wait in mile long queues for over an hour.

In the absence of sign boards and volunteers to guide and limited number of security personnel the enthusiastic visitors often lost their way inside the venue, groping to find out where the aircraft were on static display and a vantage point to view the flying display.

“What started as a grand air show has ended as a cattle show, with crowds swarming all over the place and long queues at the exhibitors’ pavilions, food courts and even rest rooms,” a software techie from IBM told IANS.

Strike fighters such as F-16IN of Lockheed Martin, F-18 of Boeing, Typhoon of Eurofighter, Sukhoi-30MKI of IAF and the prototype Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) were a treat to watch due to their awesome manoeuvres, roaring sound and majestic take-offs and landings.

Similarly, the aerobatics of IAF’s six sub-sonic Surya Kiran trainer jets and different formations by its Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) were cynosure of the crowds.

“But the presence and continuous movement of visitors in and out of pavilions and around the static display turned the venue into a garbage dump, with left over food, water bottles and other discarded objects littered all over,” school student Abhijit said.

About 592 exhibitors from 25 countries participated in the show.

The eighth edition of Aero India will be held Feb 9-13 in 2011.

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