Former President APJ Abdul Kalam has asked India evaluate the possibilities of forging a "world knowledge platform" with other nations to develop quality passenger aircraft needed for the international market.
Addressing the International Conference on Aerospace Science and Technology (INCAST) organised by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), former president Kalam said that though the platform, India should integrate core competencies of multiple Indian institutions and countries to develop the aircraft. He suggested a joint venture (JV) similar to the Indo-Russian collaboration that saw the development of the supersonic Brahmos missile as an ideal way forward.
Kalam said that Brahmos now has a market potential of over a billion dollars, as it can be launched from a number of platforms.
Kalam said that the success of the Brahmos was indicative of the fact that a similar vision for developing a 70 – seater aircraft with variants is possible through a world knowledge platform. He said the basic objective should be to ensure a modular system design that leads to cost effective variants of the passenger aircraft of different capacities.
Additionally, he outlined the allied objectives as reducing reduce acquisition costs by 25 per cent, operation cost by 25 per cent, maintenance cost by 50 per cent and emission cost by 70 per cent. He said the aircraft should have avionics designed and developed with commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology, and open systems architecture, including composite frames and a fly by wire flight control system.
Roddam Narasimha, chairman of the engineering mechanics unit at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research said that though the Indian aerospace sector had come of age in many ways, it was ''waiting for a vision.''
Narasimha, the former director of NAL said that with the investment in human resources and research and development, the sector limited not by technology, but by policy. He said that there is a lack of a national aeronautical policy, and the aeronautics commission recommended in the 1970s, which had the objective of bringing various science institutes under one umbrella, ''has not taken off.'' He said in the coming 20 years, civil aviation traffic would be equally divided among Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, but in India's context, ''there is no strong manufacturing programme for civil aviation and little appreciation for the vast opportunities that exist.''
The former president of India also said that given its technological capabilities in aerospace, India should strive towards global competitiveness in developing and producing aerospace systems for defence, space and civilian applications. He siad there is also a need for new generation turboprop and turbojet aircraft that are cheaper to acquire, cost less to operate, and are independent of expensive airport infrastructure and instrumentation. Kalam recommended NAL to play the role of the nodal agency for working on the 70-seater aircraft, saying that with the technology available in the space programme, missile programme, LCA programme and other aircraft programmes in the country, ''the development and production of 70-seater passenger aircraft before 2020 is possible.''
Addressing the same conference, Indian Space research Organisation (ISRO) chief G Madhavan Nair said that with the demand for long and short haul flights projected for 1,000 new civilian aircraft over the the next 10 yearsthe Indian aeronautics industry needs to ''wake up and capture the national market.''
Nair said that even 10 per cent of this national demand translates into a couple of billion dollars, and therefore Indian scientific institutes should work together to build indigenous capacity.