Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) carried out some critical tests on its latest platform named Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), in the city on Tuesday.

by Nandu Andhare

Speaking exclusively to The Hitavada, HAL’s Chief Test Pilot Wg Cdr Unnikrishna Pillay(Retd) informed that the LUH has tremendous demand from all the three wings of Defence services, mainly for its utility of being used as an Air Ambulance, that can carry two stretchers, one doctor and one attendant, or load of 1.2 tons, besides the crew of two. Moreover, the ageing fleet of Chetaks and Cheetahs are becoming more demanding with regards to its maintenance and increasing demands of the Services of getting a better, more modern platform, with superior avionics, to meet its requirements of operating in adverse weather conditions like hot climate, cold climate, high altitude pickets, mountains and valleys and the missions over the sea. “The Chetaks and Cheetahs,” said Wg Cdr Unnikrishna, “I have served very successfully for 50 years now and time has come to replace them.

The LUHs are suitably designed and are easy to maintain because of indigenous technology and can be suitably modified to suit the requirements of the buyer. Moreover, with Indian economy looking up, LUH assures us of a big market for its use. India used to earlier tie up with a foreign manufacturer to design a chopper for our use, costing a fortune. Today, we have the technology to design a platform suitable to our needs.”

The LUH has high-tech computers on board, has its own cooling system, which needs to be monitored in hot weather conditions. Similarly, gear box with oil with thermal cooling system, engine and other things that are critical, need to be tested in such hot weather conditions. “So, we parked the chopper on the tarmac, exposed it to the Sun and let it absorb the outside heat, so as to give us data on how the various systems on board are behaving in such trying conditions. There are temperature sensors fitted on the chopper at various points that provide data to the systems monitoring on the ground and on reaching the limit prescribed, it alerts the pilot. There are designers and technicians on the ground who will monitor flaws, if any, and avoid risks,” Wg Cdr Unnikrishna told The Hitavada.

LUH has also has a good civil market, which will flourish ,once the Defence services start using the choppers and its trained Crew and technicians are available after their retirement, to fly in the civil service. HAL is a huge organisation having more than 30,000 employees, with factories in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, UP and Kerala. “There is one coming up in Goa now. I have been with HAL since 1999 , after retiring from the Indian Air Force and currently stationed at Bangalore,” explained Wg Cdr Unnikrishna Pillay.

Asked about his next visit, Wg Cdr Pillay gave that handsome boyish smile and said, “Yes, but with a Multirole Helicopter, a heavy lift machine, designed by HAL. But, it will take three years for that.”

Asked about his completion of the mission in Nagpur, Wg Cdr Pillay reiterated, “Yes. Now, we fly out on Wednesday and reach Bangalore. We will later go to Leh for the cold weather tests”.