BANGALORE: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will add another inspiring chapter to its plane stories when Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria will take the controls of home-grown Hindustan Turbo Trainer (HTT-40) on Thursday.

HAL’s Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) – one of the top divisions involved in new projects – has been ticking all the boxes ahead of the historic flight of the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief. This is the maiden visit of the IAF chief to Bengaluru, after taking over charge in October.

Gp Capt K K Venugopal (Retd), a Test Pilot with HAL, will be accompanying Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria during Thursday’s flight, which is slated to be for an hour, post-noon.

Initially the CAS’ plan was to sit in the rear during the sortie, but the IAF Chief might take the controls from the front.

HAL is pinning hopes for an IAF order of 106 HTT-40, with the Defence Acquisition Council already approving the procurement of 70 so far.

HTT-40 is a Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) designed and developed by HAL’s internal resources (over Rs 500 crore) after IAF the top brass termed it as an ‘unwanted flying machine’ in 2013.

Team ARDC Thrilled

The project got its much-needed impetus during the tenure of Dr R K Tygai as HAL chairman, who displayed ‘courage’ to defend the dreams of the young design team of ARDC. The fortunes of HTT-40 were further revived during the tenure of Manohar Parrikar as the defence minister.

HAL was hoping to make today’s event similar to that of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent Tejas sortie, but the IAF Chief wanted his sortie minus the media glare.

“It is a final acknowledgement to the project’s legitimacy. For us the CAS flight is a golden handshake that buries all past bitterness. It is also a pat on the back for the entire team who stood their path even when all termed us the fools fighting odds,” an official linked to the trainer project said.

Thursday’s flight will be witnessed by HAL Chairman R Madhavan, Director (Engineering and R&D) Arup Chatterjee in addition to top IAF officials. The HTT-40 team lead by Prashant Bhadoria, now a Deputy General Manager and probably the youngest in HAL in charge of a crucial project.

HAL has lined up the second prototype version (PT-2) of HTT-40 for the CAS flight. The PT-1 and PT-2 have completed 208 and 132 respectively so far. The trainer is currently being readied for its initial operational clearance by next year, while waiting for the RFP (request for proposal) from IAF, a process preclude to the final orders.

Support From IAF

HAL insiders say that Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria was locked on to HTT-40 much before taking charge on October 1 this year.

“He wanted us to complete all the pending tests without any further delays. His encouragement and hands-on approach gave the much-needed boost to the programme,” says an HAL official.

The HTT-40 has recently successfully demonstrated the critical 6 turn left spin capability, a mandatory test point for a trainer aircraft. (Spin is when an aircraft keeps pitching up and loses speed. At this juncture, if one gives a turn input, the aircraft starts falling with a roll down viciously. If the pilots do not recover, then the aircraft crashes. It is mandatory that every trainee has to learn to spin and recover an aircraft.)

Currently the HTT-40 is undergoing the spin refinement tests ahead of its certification next year.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria has logged over 4250 hours of flying on 26 different types of fighters and transport aircraft. A seasoned Jaguar pilot, the IAF Chief was part of the initial prototype flight tests of Tejas.