PORVORIM: India’s indigenous light transport aircraft SARAS successfully completed its second test flight and the Indian Air Force has expressed its commitment to purchase the aircraft into its fleet.

The test flight was commanded by Wing Commander U.P. Singh, Group Captain R.V. Panicker and Group Captain K.P. Bhat of Indian Air Force- Aircraft and System Testing Establishment.

This was the second of the 20 test flights planned for SARAS PT1N, before freezing the production version. The first successful test was carried out on January 24, this year.

The design and development of the aircraft is being done by CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, (NAL). According to NAL, the production model design is expected to be ready by June-July this year.

“The project was dumped by the previous government, after an accident during test flight in 2009. Though the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, DGCA had exonerated the aircraft from any design flaw or poor-quality production, no effort was made to revive the project,” said Science & Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, who was present during the second test flight today.

Dr Vardhan said, CSIR-NAL proposes to get the SARAS-Mk 2 version certified initially for military and subsequently for civil version. He said, SARAS will be 20-25% cheaper than any imported aircraft in the same category. The improved version will be a 19-seater aircraft instead of 14-seater.

“The unit cost of the aircraft, with more than 70 per cent indigenous content, will be around 40-45 crores as against 60-70 crores for imported ones and has far more benefits than what the imported aircraft offer,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, HAL has been identified as the production agency for the military version of SARAS, while the production of civil version will be given to identified private industries. India needs 120-160 aircraft in this genre – both civil and military versions – in the next 10 years.

The aircrafts currently available in the international market are of 1970’s technology, such as Beechcraft 19000D. Dornier-228, Embraer EMB 110. They have higher fuel consumption, lower speeds, unpressurised cabin, high operating cost and unsuitable for operations from hot and high-altitude airfields.

Director General of CSIR Dr Girish Sahni said, the cost of development and certification of SARAS Mk2 will be around Rs. 600 crores with a time period of about 2 to 3 years.

“IAF is committed to test and thereafter induct the first indigenously designed and manufactured Light Transport Aircraft. IAF is fully supporting this programme and the design and configuration of the new version of SARAS would be frozen soon,” said Air Vice Marshal Sandeep Singh.