National Aerospace Laboratories to build 50-70 seater 'regional' aircraft

New Delhi: The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bangalore, has prepared a Rs1200 crore preliminary proposal to build technologies for a 50-70-seater 'regional' aircraft, designed to suit India's specific needs.

According to NAL officials, latest aviation technologies will be used or developed to build an aircraft which would be very light, fuel efficient and also be able to land and take off from very short or semi-prepared runways and airfields with rudimentary facilities.

NAL officials say that they are currently carrying out a technology-gap analysis, and defining strategies to fill the gap, as well as identifying organizations that can participate in the project.

The idea, say NAL officials, is to undertake a national effort involving other aerospace organisations in a public-private partnership mode. Project participants would be expected to share cost and risk during the development, production and marketing of the aircraft. In this context, NAL officials point to the recent agreement for collaboration on the development of a 4-5 seater aircraft signed with Mahindra Plexion Technologies, as an example of public-private partnership.

NAL officials say that with the Indian civil aviation market growing at an unprecedented rate of 25 per cent per annum over the last couple of years, and likely to continue showing sustained rates of growth, there was need for a regional aircraft that would allow the country's smaller towns to get onto the national aviation map.

According to NAL projections, the market for a 50-70 seater turbo-prop aircraft in the country would increase over the next two and a half decades with an overall requirement building up for nearly 200 aircrafts of various sizes over the next five years. Various models could be developed, ranging from 50 to 90 seats, with appropriate changes to the fuselage length.

To date, NAL has developed the two-seater trainer aircraft Hansa, presently being used by a dozen flying clubs in the country, as well as the Saras, a multi-role light transport aircraft which has already completed 100 flight test sorties. According to reports, the second prototype of the Saras is expected to roll out by the end of March this year.