The new variant will reduce training requirements for flying and ground crew, including aircraft maintenance engineers. Girish Linganna reports

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on Monday announced that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had approved modifications to the indigenously designed and developed Hindustan-228 aircraft. The upgraded variant of HAL's Hindustan 228-201 LW has a maximum take-off weight of 5695 kg with 19-passenger capability

With this modification, the aircraft would fall in the sub-5,700 kg aircraft category. This variant provides several operational benefits for operators, such as reduced pilot qualification requirements enabling pilots with Commercial Pilot License to fly the aircraft, enhanced availability of pilot pool for the aircraft and reduced operational cost.

In addition, the new variant will result in reduced training requirements for flying and ground crew, including aircraft maintenance engineers.

HAL also has approval for 6200 kg AUW with 19-passenger capability.

'Made In India' Hindustan-228

The Hindustan-228 is a civilian version of the Do-228, a multifunctional light cargo plane made by the HAL under a licence from Dornier GmbH, a German-based company.

In the late 1970s, a German organization designed and created the Dornier Do-228. In 1983, a pact was signed between Dornier and HAL for the fabrication of the plane. The agreement was for the licenced production of up to 150 aircraft.

The HAL has been authorized to manufacture the Do-228 domestically. For a long time, the defence and aerospace company has built 150 of these planes with different enhancements and provided them to the Indian Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Electronics and Radar Development Establishment. It has also exported them to the Indian Ocean countries of Seychelles and Mauritius. These planes are being utilized for monitoring the seas, guard duty, and locating and saving people in distress.

In order to meet the Indian Navy's demands, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has upgraded the two-prop engine Do-228 with surveillance and patrol components, including a surveillance radar, a FLIR system, ESM technology, satellite communication tools, data transmission links, speech encryption equipment, a TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system), and EGPWS (enhanced ground proximity warning system).

In late 2016, HAL declared intentions to create a civil version of their product. A year later, the structural assembly unit was introduced at HAL's Kanpur plant by then minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha.

The Transport Aircraft Division situated in Kanpur started producing the civil version of Do-228 to back the Union administration's local connectivity program, UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik).

The UDAN program is an essential part of the National Civil Aviation Policy launched by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in June 2016. Its aim is to make air travel affordable to small towns and isolated areas of India. The Kanpur Division of HAL has expertise in creating, maintaining, altering, and modernizing light transport and trainer aircraft for both local and foreign markets. Additionally, they have been working on creating their own equipment and systems with the intention of reducing expenses and gaining self-sufficiency.

On 21 December 2017, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) awarded HAL with the 'Certificate of Airworthiness' for its Do-228 civil variant aircraft, allowing it to be used by airlines within India for regional connectivity. At the time, it was estimated that demand for 200 aircraft would exist.

On 21st August 2021, the aerospace corporation reported that it had successfully performed ground-run and low-velocity taxi tests of the Hindustan-228 (VT-KNR) aircraft. As per a release from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Hindustan-228 adheres to the "current FAR 23 certification standards", which are related to the flight worthiness of small planes.

At DefExpo-2020, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) handed over the alteration document for two Do-228 civil planes owned by HAL that were poised for use by airlines. The alterations made included decreasing the aircraft load (maximum take-off weight) from 6,200 kg to 5,700 kg in order to meet the requirement of a transport aircraft that can be operated with a commercial pilot licence.

To make the aircraft better, it was modernized to contain an electronic cockpit for exact calculations, feedback loops on the ergonomic data screens, and the aptitude for automated self-testing to alert the pilots if anything unexpected happens. It also has the most advanced aviation technology.

As part of the upgrade, a civil-certified turboprop minus ten engine has been added to replace the earlier minus 5 engine, and the installation of a five-blade propeller has been completed. As per HAL's declaration, the Do-228 has the unique benefit of short takeoff and landing potential. Its fuel and load capacity is substantial, upkeep costs are low, fuel productivity is high, and its cruising speed is superior in its category.

This 19-passenger plane with a two-member crew can be adapted for different uses, including transporting passengers and VIPs, carrying freight, serving as an air ambulance, performing aerial surveillance and taking photographs, performing cloud seeding, and enabling para jumping.

Under the UDAN scheme, Government has approved the 'Revival of unserved and under-served airports' scheme for the revival and development of 100 unserved and under-served Airports, Helipads and Water Aerodromes by 2024. The air fleet number is expected to rise from the present 600 to 1,200 during this period.