Ahmedabad Air Show: Scintillating & Scorching!

An air show of this kind is one sure way of taking aviation to the masses as it has tremendous advertising potential if one goes by the sheer numbers that witnessed the display

Issue: 3 / 2016By Charles James WeirPhoto(s): By Anandiben Patel (Facebook)
Chief Minister of Gujarat Anandiben Patel inaugurated the three-day air show in Ahmedabad

From April 29 to May 1, 2016, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) together with the Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Limited (GUJSAIL), organised a scintillating three-day air show at Ahmedabad to promote civil aviation for sustainable development and inclusive growth. The air show was also held as part of the Gujarat State Foundation Day celebrations. The venue of the air show was the scenic Sabarmati riverfront between the Gandhi and Nehru bridges with the viewing area for the VIPs being set up on the Western bank of this stretch of the river.

UK-based Global Stars Aerobatic team owned and led by Mark Jefferies put up a thrilling air display

The air show was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Gujarat Anandiben Patel. In his welcome address, the Gujarat Minister for Civil Aviation, Saurabhbhai Patel highlighted the innumerable initiatives that the state government had taken to create an atmosphere conducive for the growth of civil aviation in the state. During the inaugural ceremony, the Chief Minister felicitated the six lady trainee pilots of the Gujarat Flying Club and launched a regional air service based at Surat.

The Air Display Team

UK-based Global Stars Aerobatic team owned and led by Mark Jefferies, a former British aerobatic champion, put up a thrilling air display. He, along with other members of the team—Tom Cassells, a former British aerobatic champion, Chris Burkett and Steve Carver—were supported by three engineers and an administrative representative.

The aircraft participating in the aerial display were models EA 330SC, EA 300L and a CAP 232 which have been manufactured by German company Extra. These two-seater monoplanes were designed in 1987 by Walter Extra, a German aerobatic pilot. With a maximum speed of 300 kmph, these aircraft have a range of 360 km. Unfortunately, the aerobatic team could not obtain the licence to import into India, the coloured smoke canisters that would have added another dimension of graceful charm to the aerobatic display. It is understood that their case got bogged down in bureaucratic delays with the concerned licensing authorities in India. This is typical of the bureaucratic malaise that afflicts the nation.

All the four aircraft that took part in the aerial display are high performance machines capable of advanced aerobatics. The combination of exceptional aeroplanes and pilots with truly superb skills set the stage for an air show that enthralled four lakh visitors every day for three days. Ahmedabad was a scorching 44 degrees Celsius on the opening day and kudos to the pilots who flew and performed high ‘g’ formation aerobatic manoeuvres under these conditions.

The Air Display

The chief guest was escorted to the viewing gallery by which time the four aircraft had taken off from the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport at Ahmedabad. The trained eye could see three aircraft in a tight ‘Vic’ formation orbiting at 3,000 feet, three nautical miles from the venue. The fourth aircraft was at 10,000 feet in front of the viewing gallery. As the chief guest declared the air show open, ‘the singleton’ smoke painted a ‘smiley’, eyebrows and all, which the crowd simply loved. The commentator had just finished introducing the team when ‘the singleton’, Mark Jeffries who had descended from his perch at 10,000 feet, made his low level run. The aircraft was being flown at 30 feet above the ground and at a speed of 200 knots, from the direction of the Nehru bridge to the Gandhi bridge, skimming over the water. Abeam the VIP enclosure, Mark executed a gutwrenching eight ‘g’ pull out to the vertical with his propeller wash leaving ripples in the placid waters of the Sabarmati. The Vertical Charlie manoeuvre that followed was flawless culminating in forward and backward tumbles and left the spectators spellbound.


The four aircraft then joined up and performed a series of loops and barrel rolls descending from 2,000 feet to 500 feet. They then split into pairs and executed synchronised stall turns and a series of truly stunning criss-crosses at 50 feet above the ground. Each time they crossed, they performed snap rolls which left the audience with a ‘heart-in-the-mouth’ feeling. The finale was a mirror formation; one aircraft was flying inverted at 100 feet above the ground with the other flying canopy to canopy just ten feet directly below. This was followed by a join up of the four aircraft and a stunning low pass at 30 feet! As the aircraft departed, the hushed crowd broke out into a spontaneous applause having been treated to twenty minutes of some amazing flying display.

The citizens of Ahmedabad were witness to a very skilful and awe-inspiring aerial display by an aerobatic team of world standards. The crowd turnout, despite the scorching temperatures, on all the three days was good to see. An air show of this kind is one sure way of taking aviation to the masses as it has tremendous advertising potential if one goes by the sheer numbers that witnessed the aerial display. Aviation enthusiasts at the venue were heard whispering of the possibility of India having its own civilian aerobatic display team sometime in the near future.