Five years grounded, Saras revs up to fly again
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.