De­vel­op­ing in­dige­nous re­gional air­lin­ers

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Aviation Defence & Inindia -

It was a déjà vu kind of sit­u­a­tion when, ten years af­ter the pol­icy state­ment was first made, the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia once again urged the na­tional avi­a­tion in­dus­try to work on de­vel­op­ing civil air­lin­ers. In 1996, HD Deve Gowda, then Prime Min­is­ter, had di­rected HAL to do so, spec­i­fy­ing two cat­e­gories, 50 – and 100-seaters. Nei­ther pro­grammes pro­ceeded and in­spite of an agree­ment with ATR, not a sin­gle step was taken to li­cence build this air­craft in In­dia. In­stead, well over one hun­dred ATR-42s and 72s were im­ported by the na­tional air­lines which to­day are fly­ing in var­i­ous colours ! As for the 100-seater, this made no head­way at all and the fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity in 2003 for ac­quir­ing the fu­tur­is­tic FairchildDornier 728 and 928 pro­grammes at vir­tu­ally give away prices, was spurned ( see re­lated item). Now In­dian in­dus­try wants to re-in­vent the wheel.

As then re­ported, “the en­tire brains trust of In­dian avi­a­tion – sci­en­tists, de­vel­op­ers and op­er­a­tors – met at the of­fice of the Min­is­ter for De­fence on 23 Septem­ber 2008 to ini­ti­ate an am­bi­tious project to man­u­fac­ture civil re­gional air­craft. The mis­sion would be to de­velop a cheap, rugged and easy to main­tain 70 to 110-seater civil­ian air­craft that should start rolling out within a decade.” How­ever, there was no clar­i­fi­ca­tion on as­pects such as work share, funding and whether the air­craft would be tur­bo­prop or tur­bo­fan pow­ered. It was too early for th­ese de­tails. In­stead, “The team en­trusted with such task will soon come back with a de­tailed project re­port.”

The pe­riod from de­vel­op­ment to cer­ti­fi­ca­tion was es­ti­mated (am­bi­tiously) to take some six years. “In case the project is suc­cess­ful, In­dia will join a select group of com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing 70 to 100seat jets. Com­pa­nies cur­rently pro­duc­ing re­gional air­lines of the same cat­e­gory are Em­braer, Bom­bardier, Mit­subishi, Sukhoi and AVIC of China.”

The ‘ roll call’ of those per­son­al­i­ties present at the meet­ing in­di­cated the Gov­ern­ment’s se­ri­ous­ness in pur­su­ing the pro­posal whose de­vel­op­ment cost had been pegged at Rs 4,000 crore. Those at the ses­sion in­cluded Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary to the Prime Min­is­ter, De­fence Sec­re­tary, Civil Avi­a­tion Sec­re­tary, CSIR Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Space Commission Chair­man, Di­rec­tor Na­tional Aero­space Lab­o­ra­to­ries, Di­rec­tor Aero­nau­ti­cal De­vel­op­ment Agency, Chair­man HAL and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the DRDO – as also Air In­dia. The meet­ing con­cluded with the state­ment that “In­dia has the tech­ni­cal base as also the re­sources to de­velop an air­craft of this size for both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.” To be called the In­dian Re­gional Trans­port Air­craft, this pro­gramme was to re­duce im­port de­pen­dence to a con­sid­er­able de­gree. “It is es­ti­mated that In­dia will re­quire over 1,200 such 70-100-seater air­craft by 2026.”

So what hap­pened?

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