Home / Opinion / Views /  Does India have what it takes to build big aircraft?

On Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he could foresee India soon manufacturing big passenger aircraft that would proudly bear the words ‘Made in India’.

Given that major aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus maintain that there is a little bit of India in every aircraft they produce, Modi’s vision is not too far from reality.

Already Indian companies such as Dynamatic Technologies, Aequs, the Tatas and Mahindra are among the hundreds making large and small components which make it possible for aircraft made by Boeing and Airbus to land and take off safely across the globe daily.

Further, Boeing India says its India operations and Indian partners contribute to every Boeing commercial aircraft worldwide. Airbus goes a step further, saying that every commercial aircraft or helicopter that the European manufacturer makes has technology, design or parts from India. Boeing has 275 partners in India and Airbus has over 45 Indian suppliers.

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This is not all. India comes with many other advantages. For example, it has a large quantity of titanium which is used for manufacturing modern-day civil aircraft. India also has the advantage of having skilled manpower which operates cutting-edge technology for Boeing and Airbus. The very fact that both Boeing and Airbus have important bases in India for parts that go into making their aircraft, including relying on Indian IT competencies, goes to show that India has all that it takes to make a civilian aircraft which is truly ‘Made in India.’

Of course, this will not happen overnight. Providing parts to other manufacturers for their aircraft and making whole aircraft in India are different things. But with all the ingredients available in the country — from material to engineering and from manpower that can work the cutting-edge technology to an IT talent pool — it is just a matter of time when fully made-in-India aircraft are seen donning the colours of global airlines.

A ready market for a large number of aircraft already exists in India. For example, in March this year, Boeing estimates that 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. If Made in India can contribute to meeting this demand, then it will be a win-win for the Indian manufacturers.

However, manufacturing a wholly indigenous aircraft is one thing but getting it to fly with requisite certifications from international bodies is another. Here too India scores well. The amicable relations that it enjoys with the US, Europe and Japan could play a big role in achieving Prime Minister Modi’s goals. Every aircraft which is produced globally needs to be certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) or the Japanese aviation authority before it can find a global market. With the cordial relations that India enjoys globally, this will not be a problem provided that the aircraft being manufactured meet global safety, emission, aerodynamics and fuel efficiency standards. This is a problem that an immediate neighbour of India looking to enter the global civil aircraft market is facing. In September, the Civil Aviation Administration of China granted type certification to a narrow-body C919 aircraft being built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. But given the frosty relations between China and the US and other global countries, this aircraft will find it difficult to find markets outside China. But hopefully this will not be the case with Made-in-India aircraft as India’s talent pool is already working in these fields and, what’s more important, excelling at what it does.

So wait for a decade or maybe a little longer — a short time given the scale of Modi’s vision — and you may well fly in Made-in-India aircraft.

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