A FLYING START
Abusinessman with exceptional vision set up India’s first aircraft-producing factory, Hindustan Aircraft, in 1940. Seth Walchand Hirachand, who had also set up India’s first shipyard, Scindia Steam Navigation Company, and automobile plant, Premier Automobiles, was exceptionally prescient when he approached the kingdom of Mysore for seed capital for his startup. Hirachand was laying the building blocks for the soon-to-be independent country’s industrial base. Today, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is India’s only hub for the design, development and production of aircraft. Over the past 70 years, it has churned out 29 types of aircraft—from the MiG-21 to the Sukhoi Su-30MKI and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft; Chetak, Cheetah and Dhruv helicopters; and transport aircraft for the security forces. An aerospace wing set up over two decades ago gave the Indian Space Research Organisation a leg-up in its space race by supplying
key components for the Mars Orbiter mission and GSLV Mark III launch in 2014. It has created an entire aviation and high-technology industrial ecosystem by sourcing components from nearly 2,400 partners. HAL supplies high precision structural and composite work packages for Airbus A-320 and Boeing-777 aircraft. It has manufactured 4,060 aircraft and helicopters, 4,900 aero engines, and overhauled/ upgraded over 11,000 aircraft and 32,000 engines. Of late, it’s transforming from a manufacturing to a technology firm by ploughing 10 per cent of profits into R&D and is set to produce over 1,000 helicopters and over 100 combat jets over the next decade to remain the mainstay of India’s aerospace might.