SARAS multi-purpose light transport aircraft developed by National Aerospace Laboratories

Minister of State, Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha says inter-ministerial task force is studying the project to manufacture of regional transport aircraft in India

A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is likely to be set up to give shape to the government’s dream of manufacturing its own regional transport aircraft for civilian use. An Inter-Ministerial task force has already been set up which is studying whether manufacturing can be done. The government has also set up a Special Group that is studying all the regional planes that are registered in India.

According to sources, the recommendation of the SPV has been made by the inter-ministerial task force set up by the Ministry to look into the construction of the regional transport aircraft. At the moment, the Ministry is considering the idea of setting up the SPV.

A 14-seater prototype aircraft called SARAS Prototype-2 failed to pass the trials. The aircraft which could not get DGCA license crashed in 2009 killing all the crew members. The propeller of this aircraft was Germany made. The government, according to reports, is now planning something much bigger than this for civilian use.

The earlier attempt was made by National Aeronautics Limited, which is under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). But, now the government is planning to float an SPV.

While making air travel cheaper has been on the agenda of the government, the government now wants to venture into aircraft manufacturing also as part of Make In India. But experts say that it will take at least a decade before this dream materialises.

Speaking to The Statesman, the Minister of State, Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha said that a task force is underway that is looking at the manufacture of aircraft in India. But Sinha said that the inter-ministerial task force is yet to submit its recommendations.

“A special group has been initiated to study the regional transport planes,” said Sinha. If this becomes a reality, India will enter into the exclusive club of countries that can manufacture aircraft. They include China, US and France. China, according to reports, has also begun exporting aircraft. It has manufactured 168-seater COMAC C919 which is being compared to Airbus A320 Neo and Boeing 737 Max both of which are latest versions.

Capt Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety expert, is critical of the government plans. He said that constructing an aircraft is not a simple task as it has to go through certifications.

“Our own aircraft manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, is being run down,” said Capt Ranganathan. He also said that the government had toyed with the idea of having its own aircraft way back in the 1970s.

“The aircraft was called Basant. It was meant for crop spraying. But, the project was dropped midway. If the Indian government could not construct a four-seater aircraft, constructing a bigger aircraft is next to impossible,” said Capt Ranganathan.