Former IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal (retd) Fali Major, at his residence near Devanahalli. Photo | M Jitendra
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: Former Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal (retd) Fali Major is excited that in the next couple of days, he will be meeting all his friends, ex-colleagues and the best plane people from all around the world. Away from the chaos of Bangalore city, the former chief of Indian Air Force (IAF) is now settled near Devanahalli. City Express caught up with Major on the eve of Aero India-2013, to read the mind of a man who has been there, done that. Excerpts:
On Aero India: It has become one of the finest air shows in the world. We are somewhere very close to Farnborough, with more business and more exhibits. But, to me the most sought-after shows were during 2007, 2009 and 2011. I am not sure what kind of business activities will take place during this time. The deals are done. But, the Indian aviation industry has a huge opportunity, thanks to the offset contracts it will have with the OEMs. This is the time we will have to support the MSMEs and SMEs. The organizers must encourage small-time players to exhibit the products. They should be given an opportunity. There is huge talent out there with Bangalore being the hub of aerospace.
On two air shows: I feel we should take a re-look at having two air shows. Why should we have one for civil aviation in Hyderabad and then for military in Bangalore? No country has two air shows – be it in Farnborough, Dubai or Singapore. Can you tell me which country has two air shows? If we make these shows together, then we will able to synergize our energies in a better way. It will also give an opportunity for people to see the advancements in ATC, airport services and ground-handling. I also feel that the air show should be the job of the India government and not just one department or organization.
On Surya Kirans: I will certainly miss the SKAT (Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team) at the show, like anyone else. This team has definitely gifted a great brand image to the Indian Air Force. I hope by 2015, during the next air show, we will have a new aerobatic team.
On Sarangs: Ideally the formation chopper team should have a light helicopter. May be the Light Utility Helicopters we are getting now, should be tried out. When the Light Combat Helicopter matures, maybe we can try it too for aerobatic display. But, I am taking nothing away from the Sarangs. They are a fine unit.
The best air show: To me, the most unforgettable air show was in 2007. We had almost close to 20 Air Chiefs of various countries participating for the first time. I was the Chief-designate then. It was one of the finest moments for me as all of them were very impressed with the show. The most-sought-after shows were in 2007, 2009 and 2011. The IAF modernization had reached its zenith during these shows.
On IAF modernization: The IAF, more or less got everything, it had asked for, except the LCAs, IJTs, Dhruvs and the like. The latest addition of IAF assets, including the modern fighters, transport planes, helicopters and trainers, will take care of the needs of the IAF for the next 30 years. May be the weapons and air-defence systems, upgrades are still pending. The IAF modernization was probably one of the most planned ones. We had a long term plan for IAF. Today, the challenge for IAF is to manage old and new systems (flying machines). You will have to change the mindset and it is happening. Removing old mindset will take time.
On LCA-Tejas: There will be delays, if two separate agencies (HAL and ADA) with different philosophies are working on one programme. I am looking forward to Tejas Mk-II with new engine.
On Dhruv & LCH: Dhruv is a great chopper in its own class. But, the biggest problem of Dhruv is its product support. Let’s wait and see what LCH will eventually look like, with its weapon systems.
On Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT): If we get sufficient quantities of Pilatus trainer and Hawks, then I think we will not have space for anything else. But, if HAL can deliver the IJTs, matching the specifications of IAF, then it will be a different story.
On HAL: I feel, HAL should have a dedicated R&D unit. Tell me one major aerospace industry in the world which doesn’t have a robust R&D department. The R&D wing of HAL should have highly-qualified people from various disciplines, especially aerospace designers and engineers.
On Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA): With the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) in pipeline, the need for AMCA is debatable.