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There are not many chances to see aircraft of the Indian Air Force, and if you think about going to see them in their home country, there actually is only one: Aero India, held bi-annually at Yelahanka AB, located North of Bangalore. My first trip in 2011 should bring me there.

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Where? India - Bangalore & Delhi
When? February 2011

8 hours on board of one of Lufthansa's Jumbo Jet to Bangalore/Bengaluru in Southern India passed quite fast. With the contrails literally zapping by the window at 1000km/h, the sun set somewhere over a snow-covered Eastern Turkey.
It was in the middle of the night when arriving in Bangalore, and shortly before landing the 5-million people city appeared to be covered under a thick layer of haze, illuminated in orange by the many streetlights. I should find out about this hazy and dusty air the next few days, but after the arrival only one thing was important: getting fast to the hotel to get some sleep. Fortunately this late hour was convenient to get a quick ride there.

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The next day in the morning a unusual feeling made me wake-up: it was warm and already getting hot quite a while before midday. I was not used to this after a long dark winter without any sun, but the forecast for Bangalore with 30°C during the day and more than 10 hours of sun throughout the whole week seemed to be true.

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I used this 'day off' to discover the city. With an auto-rickshaw the first stop of the day was reached in style : the HAL Heritage Centre .

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., promoting itself as Asia's biggest Aeronautical company, did set up this museum adjacent to its main factory buildings at Bangalore's old airport in the East of the City. With an entrance fee of 25 Rupees and 10 for the permission of taking photos it offers an extensive collection, and some shady places if you are not used to the sun and still suffer a bit from the jetlag...

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Two buildings present the proud heritage of the company as well as their technical know-how, whereas most of the exhibits are located outside and protected from the strong sun under some sun-sheds. This makes photography difficult, but at least one has the feeling that they really look after their aircraft - though the sheds do not hinder the many Chipmunks running around from getting in all the holes that they find.

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Of course the local built aircraft were a special treat, as well as a MiG-21 double-seater. Looking at the Kiran I could not imagine that it flies very well, but I should find out some days later, as this type still flies with Indian Air Force's Display Team "Suryakiran", or SKAT for "Suryakiran Aerobatics Team".

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The day was finished later in the afternoon with a visit the famous (well, at least in Bangalore) Cubbon Park and the High Court Building as well as the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the state legislature of Karnataka.

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The rest of this week in Bangalore was spend to visit Aero India 2011, about which an extensive report can also be found here on these pages. Usually taking a Taxi to Yelahanka AFB in the North of city I once also had to use a rikshaw which was quite an experience during the nearly one hour lasting ride.

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Of course Aero India resulted in some nice photos, even more so that a constantly cloudless sky and twice daily the same display in the morning and the afternoon provided many photo opportunities.

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The evening after the showdays were spent walking around Bangalore and discovering the old and the new faces – like the 184m high UB Tower – of this moving city.

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On Friday, before hundreds of thousands of people of the general public literally flooded Aero India, it was time to leave and I flew North to Delhi as I had planned to visit the Taj Mahal.

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Some people describe the Taj Mahal as the world's greatest 'Love Monument', but that was not the reason why I went there. I just wanted to see this approximately 40m high mausoleum completely made from marble between 1632-1653 with my own eyes.

The 200km drive from Delhi to Agra in the middle of the night was really fast and took only approximately 4 hours. Getting back in the afternoon took 6 hours due to the traffic (once again for ...only... 200km!).

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The early arrival at the Taj had the big advantage that I could queue first to get in and got my sunrise photos of the Taj without any people. Only half an hour later this scene looked completely different.

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The time was short for staying there, but after around 3 hours I got the feeling that I have seen enough and headed back from Agra towards Delhi.

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The drive during the daytime was an eye-opener:
during the show at Yelahanka I spent obviously nearly the whole time of the day at the exhibition and did not get the chance to see a lot, but these six hours of driving back and looking out of the window was like an endless movie that unwound in front of my eyes. The impressions were so manifold and different that they are hard to describe. Their was the daily life on the street, all the numerous means of transportation, and of course crowds of people in every city at every street corner. These photos here are just a small subset of impressions I saw:

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The last part of this tour was the Indian Air Force Museum at Palam AFB, just a short hop away from the Delhi International Airport. Though it is not a very big collection, it is one of the very few aviation museums in Asia and the only one dedicated to the Indian AF.
A little more than one hour was just enough to stroll through the exhibited aircraft and have a look at the collections of historic photos and material in several buildings. But a real eye-opener was the reconnaissance MiG-25R that is now placed in the static display on the outside together with an An-12, MiG-23, two Iskras and a C-119 Flying Boxcar.

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The rest of the collection inside the main hall includes a little bit of everything from propeller aircraft such as the Lysander, Spitfire or Fury to the early foreign and indigenous jets (HAL Marut, Dassault Ouragan an Mystere or a MiG-21 and Su-7). When leaving the main hall, and before entering the souvenir shop, there is also still a Canberra and an impressive B-24 Liberator, unfortunately completely overpainted in silver and without and recognizable Squadron markings.

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The visit to the museum brought the week in India to a successful end and it was then time to have one last Indian Curry dish a the airport restaurant and have a nice flight back via Zürich – back into the cold.

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