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Aeropolitics, Airline Management, Commercial Airliners, General Aviation, Other Aviation Issues, Regional Aircraft

SUMMARY: While India’s aerospace industry is growing, most of it is on the military side while commercial aviation is far behind, yet HAL (Hindustan Aircraft Ltd) started with license production of the Hawker Siddley 748 turboprop airliner almost 40 years ago (89 built) and then in the mid-1980’s continued with the Dornier 228 (till now +125 built), and that is is ? Oh, lets not forget the never ending 29 year development of the NAL Saras, a 14 passenger pusher turboprop resurrected earlier this year again, for what ? its too small for India’s needs. The Indians know they need bigger aircraft, have the “plans” for the 80-90 seat Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) turboprop and the 70-100 seat Indian Regional Jet (IRJ), but as of now its just talk and nice computer generated pictures. Of the top 7 major aerospace manufacturing nations, India is ranked 7th, yet was ahead of the Chinese 30 years ago, but it has not moved forward, while the Chinese now have the ARJ-21, C919 and soon MA-700 turboprop, all India has is the little 19 passenger Dornier 228, and that is it. What is India waiting for ? it has a huge market for aircraft between 19 to 100+ passenger turboprops and jets, it could have been a major competitor in that segment to Brazil, Canada and China, but its out of the game, too late now because too many new players in the market, Japan (MRJ-75/90), Turkey (TR/TRJ-628), Russians (SSJ100, MC-21) and Indonesia (N219), and other nations to come ?

 India’s commercial aircraft industry struggles to get “off the ground”, yet it has had years of experience and some success, but today it is sadly out of the game.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) first licence production was in the early 1980’s to 1988 the 44 passenger British HS-748 turboprop, of which 380 were built, and of that 89 were built in India (known as HAL-748) of that 72 went to Air Force and 17 to Indian Airlines Corp, it was their first experience for them building commercial airliners.

Then in 1985 HAL signed a licence agreement with Dornier Luftfahrt of Germany to build the 19 passenger, un-pressurized turboprop Do228, and by 2014, 125 were manufactured in India. The Air Force and Navy took most, but 10 went to local airline Vayudoot in 1985.

Today HAL is still building the Do228 and now the Do 228NG and just recently received an order for 10 Do228’s by Alliance Air ( a regional subsidiary of Air India) as part of the Regional Connectivity Scheme to provide air services to small remote cities.

As well in 2014 the Navy ordered 12 for Maritime Patrol and 14 were ordered by the Air Force for light transportation work.

These 2 programs (HAL-748 and Dornier 228) were a success and the Do228NG (now owned by RUAG of Switzerland) is now picking up and a success going forward,but now they need 30-70 seat aircraft.

BUT, the NAL (National Aerospace Laboratories) Saras project (PHOTO-below) has been dragging on for decades, conceived 30 years ago and the first flight was May 29, 2004. The aircraft is a 14 passenger pressurized turboprop pusher, with 2 x PT6A-67A engines with a speed of 280 kts.

It was dead for the past few years after a crash and just this year, it was revived again, but 14 passenger seats ? a similar aircraft (pusher configuration) Embraer CBA-123 Vector with 19 passengers and 307 kts was dumped in 1991 after 2 prototypes, (PHOTO-below, see any similarities ?). The NAL Saras is too small for regional airlines, it has to be at least 19 passengers, as India needs 30+ seat regional aircraft.

India will need a 50-90 seat turboprop, and that has been talked about for a long time, but going nowhere, as well talk of a Indian Regional Jet of 70-100 seats is going nowhere. They just can’t seem to get started and committed to anything, lots of great ideas on the Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) (BELOW) and Indian Regional Jet (IRJ) (BELOW), looks good on paper, but it needs to be built, ATR and Q400 need competition on the turboprop market and the regional jet market needs competition to Embraer’s E2’s and the Mitsubishi MRJ-75/90, as the CRJ fade away.

They could for instance, possibly by the Bombardier DHC-8-100/300 Type Certificate, the aircraft is rugged, able to operate into unprepared airstrips and high altitude airports, and they could potentially put into production very fast, and have a regional airliner of 37 to 54 seats.  Look Turkey is leap frogging the industry, through Sierra Nevada (SNC)  and Turkish engineering firm STM to restart production of the 32 passenger Dornier 328 turboprop and 328Jet regional airliners in Turkey and then stretch them into 60-70 seaters, so why not ? IF India doe sit on their own, with their development history, it will be at LEAST 15+ years before they have an aircraft certified.

Mahindra Aerospace, which bought GippsAero (Australia) few years back, is also a disappointment, its 8 seat singe engine piston powered GA-8 is selling poorly (66 delivered in the last 5 years) around the world and the 10 seat single turboprop GA-10 a stretch of the GA-8 is struggling for certification (PHOTOS – below)

he company bought the Type Certificate for what was the GAF (Australia) N24A Nomad, a twin engine turboprop with 18 passenger seats, that as been out of production for many ears and only 39 built. They want to launch it as the GA-18 having bought the program in 2011, but so far again nothing, and yet it has potential with the new RR250 engines, not for hot high conditions of Northern India, but globally it has potential, but if they can’t certify the GA-10 then forget the GA-18.

The Indian’s are too focused on military equipment and see little value in commercial aircraft jet they have the ability and capability to be a major player in the regional aircraft market, of 30 to 80 seat turboprops which India needs.

But even military aircraft take forever, their single engine light combat aircraft (LCA-light combat aircraft)) Tejas (PHOTO-Below-Left), took 33 years of development and just delivered first few in 2015, yet the Navy is not happy with them for aircraft carrier operations and will instead buy another western aircraft for that role. The Indians are working with Russia on the UAC/HAL IL-214 (MTA) multi transport aircraft (PHOTO-Below-Right) with $300 million investment by each side, to replace the 120+ Antonov AN-32’s in the Air Force.


The AN-32 is now upgraded by Antonov into the AN-132 (PHOTOS – below) with Saudi Arabian investment (Taqnia Aerospace) with new PW 150 engines (5,000+ shp) and new Honeywell Primus Epic avionics and hot high capability to operate out of 13,000 foot airfields that India has. A much better choice for India’s conditions than a jet powered IL-214, their loss.

So India has issues in aircraft manufacturing and has fallen way behind the Chinese, yet they could have by now had a their own larger 40 -80 seat turboprop and regional jet for domestic market but for export as well, but they have serious issues to overcome, as the Comparison of commercial aerospace shows (BELOW), where India is 7th out of 7 countries, with so much do do, and yet I see little progress, lots of dreams and plans but NO action.

India is way behind the ball to be a commercial aircraft manufacturing nation on its own, has the talent but priorities are too military focused for now as it spends hundreds of billions on arms, and not enough on its own commercial aircraft needs, a shame indeed.

Learn something new ? I hope so, till next time, stay safe, fly low and slow, cheers.



About Aviation Doctor - Helping aviation companies to transform the present into a more profitable tomorrow

I am a Canadian and EU national with an MBA and 33+ years experience in aviation business development with 20 years overseas and work in 30+ countries. A former investment/merchant banker (mergers and acquisitions to corporate turnarounds). airline and OEM senior executive and past owner of 6 successful aviation companies in 3 countries (executive jet charter/management companies, aircraft sales, aircraft broker, airline/aerospace consulting to aircraft insurance). I have a very diverse aviation background with 75+ aviation companies (50+ airlines of all sizes, OEM's, airports, lessors, MRO to service providers) as consultant, executive management, business analyst and business development adviser. Excellent success track record in International Business Development. Most work with airlines is with new start-ups and restructuring of troubled carriers. I sold new business jets, turboprops and helicopters for Cessna, Raytheon, Gulfstream to Eurocopter as an ASR as well as undertaking sales and marketing of commercial aircraft for Boeing, de Havilland, Dornier, Saab and Beechcraft. Brokered everything from LET-410's to B747's and from piston PA31 to G550 business jets. I look beyond the headlines of the aviation news and analyze what the meaning and consequences of the new information really means. There is a story behind each headline that few go beyond. Picked the name Aviation Doctor, as much of my work has been with troubled companies or those that want and need to grow profitably. I fix problems in the business for a better tomorrow. You can reach me with comments or suggestions at: Tomas.Aviation@gmail.com I write a lot of Articles and Posts on LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-chlumecky-3200a021/


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