Bengaluru: The 12th edition of the biennial Aero India 2019 air show took off on Wednesday with a dazzling flying display of military and civilian aircraft at the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Yelahanka base here.

After Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman flagged off the five-day aerospace expo, about 5,000 guests and invitees were treated to a two-hour spectacular flying display of fighters, helicopters, transport and civilian aircraft.

The multi-role medium combat aircraft Rafale of the French Dassault Aviation was a clear winner, with daring feats at the aerial display visitors’ area.

In the midst of showcasing Rafale’s air power, its French Air Force pilot Captain Nativel paid tribute from the air to IAF pilot Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, who died here on Tuesday after two Surya Kiran Hawk aerobatic aircraft collided in the air and crashed.

The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Jaguar and Sukhoi-30 fighter also flew in a ‘Missing Man’ formation as a tribute to Gandhi.

The IAF’s Sarang aerobatic team in Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) flew in different formations under a clear sky as a visual treat to the spectators.

The display included the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL) Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).

As the IAF decided not to fly its Surya Kiran jets at the air show after it lost two of its nine aircraft on Tuesday, the visitors missed its daring aerobatics and colourful display.

“Though the crash was unfortunate and appears to be for the first time at the biennial event, we decided that the show must go as such incidents are part of our air warriors’ life,” an IAF pilot told IANS.

In all, 61 aircraft are participating at the air show, including 31 in flying display and 30 in static display on the tarmac of the air base.

Among the other aircraft that flew at the flypast and flying display were three Mi-17 helicopters in VIC formation carrying the National Flag and Aero India flags Dakota-DC-3, nicknamed ‘Gooneybird’ aircraft, MiG-21 Bison, Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) and P-8i surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

Designed and built by the French Dassault Aviation, the twin-engine, canard delta wing multi-role Rafale will join the IAF later this year as India signed an inter-governmental contract to buy 36 jets in flyaway condition with an option for 18 more.

— IANS