Five years grounded, Saras revs up to fly again

SP's MAI - - SP’S EXCLUSIVES -

The In­dian Air Force’s premier testing fa­cil­ity, the Air­craft & Sys­tems Testing Es­tab­lish­ment (ASTE) has be­gun ground tri­als of the PT1N mod­i­fied and souped-up first pro­to­type. Top sources in­form SP’s that the PT1N will be put through an ex­ten­sive se­ries of ground han­dling, turn­ing and taxi tri­als, in­clud­ing static sys­tems tri­als be­fore it is cleared for a first flight.

The IAF has al­ready ap­pointed a pilot crew for the flight, likely to take place in Fe­bru­ary. The plat­form has re­mained on ground since the crash of the se­cond pro­to­type in March 2009, killing all three test per­son­nel on board. As ear­lier re­ported by SP’s, the mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the first pro­to­type in­clude changes to the rear fuse­lage, in­creased area rud­der, mod­i­fied stub wings, new en­gine na­celles and a cru­cial au­topi­lot. A third pro­to­type, in­cor­po­rat­ing full weight op­ti­mi­sa­tion and an ex­panded ra­tio of com­pos­ites in the build, is slated for a first flight later this year, af­ter the PT1N clocks at least 25 flights. Ac­cord­ing to sources as­so­ci­ated with the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the Saras, the air­craft had grave prob­lems that have since been ad­dressed. Even the ground tri­als could have com­menced ear­lier, but for NAL’s in­sis­tence that all sim­u­lated tests be cor­rob­o­rated on sta­tion be­fore the plat­form was handed over to the ASTE for op­er­a­tional-level ground and flight testing.

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