Bangalore: A third, weight-optimised, prototype of Saras, the 14-seater multi-role light transport aircraft, is being manufactured and is expected to fly by June of next year. The third prototype would see a weight reduction of 500 kg by optimising the fuselage, using composite wings and tail.
The final aircraft was designed to fly with a total weight of 7,100 kg. A somewhat overweight Saras has left the aircraft under-powered.
Dr AR Upadhya, director of the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), said the Indian Air Force has conveyed its intention to procure 15 Saras aircraft for operational use, initially, followed by another order for 30.
MS Chidananda, programme director, civil aviation programme, said the IAF had put forward a letter of intent to procure the aircraft. "Once we receive firm orders, the aircraft could be delivered after 36 months", he said.
Speaking to reporters at the launch of the golden jubilee celebrations of the NAL, Wednesday, Dr Upadhya said the third prototype is expected to receive full certification from the Director General of Civil Aviation by mid-2010.
Talking about cost escalation of the project since its inception, he said in 1999, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research had sanctioned Rs131.38 crore and an additional sum of Rs27 crore was alloted in 2006. "We are now seeking another Rs40 crore towards meeting the cost of the project. The total cost is estimated to be Rs200 crore," the programme director said. The aircraft can be deployed for transport and to airlift cargo.