Hope triumphs over experience at `India Aviation 2014’, the biennial civil aviation show more popularly called the Hyderabad air-show. The show opens in somewhat dampened times when Indian carriers are expected to notch up combined losses of close to $1.2billion. The country’s safety rating has just been downgraded by the FAA, casting doubts at the capability of its regulator. Added to this is the niggling unease in everyone’s mind about the fate of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which went down last weekend.
Yet, for all the gloom and reality checks, there is undiminished hope among participants at the show. Union civil aviation minister Ajit Singh is all set to inaugurate the five-day event at the Begumpet airport. The organisers, FICCI and the ministry of civil aviation have made sure all the bells and whistles in place. For flying enthusiasts, colourful aerobatics by a team of two British barnstormers will surely be the highlight of the day.
It is not clear which airline will actually announce orders for new aircraft at the show. Aviation consultancy CAPA expects Indian carriers to order close to 400 planes this year. Airlines often order planes even when they are flying through losses; this is because the delivery cycles are long and airlines have to think long-term.
Prominently on display at the show, will be two of the most sophisticated aircraft in the world. Emirates is flying in its Airbus A380 and Boeing will deliver Air India’s 13th Dreamliner B787 at the event. Ironically, both airlines are battling hard in the marketplace for a share of the Indian passenger- Emirates is trying to route them via Dubai to cities all over the world, and Air India trying to attract them with direct flights to newer destinations.
At the smaller end of the aircraft market, business-jet makers, whose fortunes have been on the decline in the past four years, are out in full attendance at the show. Attracted by the economic revival expected after India’s elections, and look at the show as an opportunity to make the early pitches to potential customers. On display at Begumpet are Beechcraft’s King Air 350ER, C90GTx and a Baron G58, Bombardier’s Challenger 300, Learjet 60 and Global 6000, Gulfstream’s ultra high-speed (and long range) G650, Dassault’s Falcon 7X and 2000LX, the Embraer Legacy 650, Lineage 1000, and Phenom 300, and Piaggio Aero’s P180 Avanti II.
The exhibition halls have 350 exhibitors from around the world. From large vendors like Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Honeywell to little-known domestic manufacturers wanting to display their capabilities. It is fitting that the biggest bird at the show is an A380 from Emirates; since the Dubai-based airline operates the largest number of flights to and from India.
It is also fitting that the four-enginned plane is being flown in by Capt Cyrus P Cama, a Bandra-boy who got his wings in Mumbai and is now instructor and examiner on the A380 at Emirates. Capt Cama, in many ways, represents thousands of Indians employed with the Gulf carrier. Emirates was built on the shoulders of pilots and engineers from India. The carrier, like its rivals Qatar Airways and Etihad, provide employment to tens of thousands of technical and non-technical personnel from the Indian sub-continent.