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In a bid to strengthen India’s footprint in the business of aviation, the government has started the ground work for manufacturing passenger aircraft in the country, two officials told Mint.

“The government is looking at various airports. The idea is to have enough land available near an airport so that there is runway access for test flights. The aviation ministry is expected to identify 5-6 airports for this purpose," a senior official told Mint.

Currently, the ministry of civil aviation is expected to identify the potential sites with availability of massive land parcels as the facilities for aerospace manufacturing will need large space for assembly lines, aircraft parts, ancillary units and other storage requirements, he added.

In a significant development for aviation manufacturing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of C-295 transport aircraft manufacturing facility - the country’s first in the private sector - in Vadodara, Gujarat on 30 October. The facility will manufacture C-295 aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) through collaboration between Tata Advanced Systems Limited and Airbus Defence and Space S.A., Spain. This 21,935 crore-project is first of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company. The aircraft can be used for civilian purposes as well.

In his address, the PM had said that he can foresee that India will soon be manufacturing big passenger aircraft that will bear the words ‘Made in India’.

“The transport aircraft that’ll be manufactured here will not only give power to our Army but also develop a new ecosystem of manufacturing aircraft... Soon, India will witness the passenger aircraft that will be made with the tag of Make In India," the PM had said.

India has the third largest domestic aviation market in the world after US and China. The current fleet of India has crossed 700 airplanes and the government expects the fleet to grow by around 125 aircraft per year leading to a capacity of almost 1500 airplanes over the next decade.

“India is emerging as one of the key aviation markets in the world and given the growing middle class and emerging economy, the demand will continue to grow. The government realises that there is a real potential for aircraft manufacturing in India and it will make sense both for the manufacturer and for the airline," another official said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Airports Authority of India are likely to work together to identify the airports which will have enough land available in the vicinity to accomodate a large-scale facility and have access to the runway for testing requirements, he said.

“These land parcels can then be leased out for the manufacturing. Just like how Toulouse in France has emerged as an aerospace manufacuring hub, the aim is to make something similar. Surely, this will take time and these are preliminary preparations but this is doable. Land is a challenge as it is not that easily available and is required in a large amount," he added.

As per Boeing’s latest estimate, India will require 2,000 single-aisle aircraft over the next 20 years, while Airbus estimate is more than 2,200 new aircraft over the next 20 years of which 80 per cent will be narrow-body. Already Indian companies such as Dynamatic Technologies, Aequs, the Tatas and Mahindra are among the hundreds making large and small components of an airplane.

“India has the skilled human resource, the demand, government willingness, and both Airbus and Boeing have established that India is a key market for them, so while the regulatory procedure regarding certification can be a challenge initially as the ecosystem for aircraft manufacturing is much more complex, it will depend on the incentives and infrastructure that will be offered for such a business oppotunity, an industry expert said.

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