India’s regional civil aircraft venture gathering momentum

India’s regional civil aircraft venture gathering momentum

Bangalore: India’s regional civil aircraft project is gathering pace with the team tasked with the venture finalizing a 90-seater configuration with a range of 2,500 km.

Discussions are also on with global engine-makers, while enthusiastic private players are set to get on board of the ambitious programme soon, head of the national panel on the project, G Madhavan Nair, told PTI in Bangalore.

“We have converged on something like a 90-seater which will have a range of around 2,500 kms so that if you want to fly from one end of the country to the meets such requirements," said Nair, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Bangalore-headquartered National Aerospace Laboratories is taking the lead role in the project, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HA), Aeronautical Development Agency and Defence Research and Development Organisation’s LCA (light combat aircraft) project team being key part of it.

“So, we have tapped experienced people from almost who’s who in the aerospace here. Also, we are trying to see whether we can induce private industries come into it. So, within a month, we will be putting out an advertisement calling for interested (private) people to register with us," he said.

The private sector response was already overwhelming with “everybody who is in the field of engineering wanting to be part of the project. But we have to make a careful assessment. So, we will go through the process. We will make them (selected private companies) as partners right from the beginning itself," he added.

While structure, aerodynamics, configuration, design, system integration and avionics for the aircraft would be indigenous, the team would have to depend on outside source for engine.

There are global engine companies such as Snecma, GE, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce which are being considered.

“We have already contacted them. They have given preliminary data. Based on that we are seeing how best we can match with our design and so on", Nair said.

Nair indicated that the project is likely to be taken forward in a joint venture model with private sector participation.

But it’s going to be a “complex" joint venture model. The panel has appointed A T Kearney as consultants to study the market and SBI Capital as financial consultant.

The development team is aimed to have around 100 people and half of this number is already on board and remaining in the process of recruitment.

Nair said as per initial assessment, India is projected to need 500 such regional transport aircrafts in the next 10 years, while the global demand is pegged at 3,500 for such aircraft.

Given this robust demand, he said it’s a good opportunity for India to get into the global market for this class of aircraft. “...depends on how cost-effective we are, how much reliability and confidence level we bring up."

He said issues relating to making the configuration more efficient, the kind of engine required, and aerodynamics to be introduced for saving fuel and other eco-friendly measures are currently being addressed.

The panel is also now working on plans to set up facilities for integration, testing and simulation, among others.

Draft report on the Rs5,000 crore project is expected to be ready in two-three months and the final one is planned to be submitted for government approval by middle of next year.

Nair expects the facilities for the project to come up in the next two-three years, with building of first prototype to be taken up parallely.

“So, in four years, the first piece (prototype of the aircraft) would come out. That’s my dream," he said, adding, qualification for flying is aimed to be obtained in five-six years (in 2015-16 timeframe).