Six is a crowd: India reveals plan for 70-plus seat regional jet

“Monkey see monkey do. Just what the world needs, another bloody regional jet.” So said one observer upon learning that India is looking to build a 70- to 100-seat RJ. I’m guessing that the aviation industry may have a similar reaction.

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Reports out of India say state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has been asked by the government to prepare a roadmap for the design and construction of a so-called Indian Regional Jet (IRJ), and that the project will seek assistance from Bombardier or Embraer.

Should the plan progress, the world of regional aircraft manufacturing is going to get awfully crowded. China‘s AVIC I Commercial Aircraft Corporation, Japan‘s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Russia‘s Sukhoi have already thrown their hats into the ring with the ARJ, the MRJ and the SSJ, respectively. They are hoping to ride a wave of order activity that has seen Bombardier and Embraer build record backlogs and forecast robust demand for larger-capacity types for many years to come. Whether the newbies will attract large orders outside of their own backyards remains to be seen.

For the record, Bombardier says it does not have any industry arrangement with HAL on commercial aircraft at this time “and we do not comment on discussion with aerospace companies on future programmes”. Embraer could not be immediately reached for comment.

I question whether either company will be keen to help India develop something that will squarely compete with aircraft in their own portfolios. Then again, Bombardier says it remains committed to supporting the Chinese-built ARJ21-900.

Regardless, the news means potentially big business for HAL, which is also likely to be the production house for India‘s very first civil transport aircraft, a 14-seat multi-role twin turboprop now in testing. This will give HAL a foray into commercial aircraft development.

On hearing news that the same firm will probably take the lead on both projects, our oh-so-cynical industry observer quips: “Even better, they’ll take 50 years to get on with both and then realise that it is out of date.” Easy tiger.

(HAL logo from company web site www.hal-india.com)

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10 Responses to Six is a crowd: India reveals plan for 70-plus seat regional jet

  1. Sturmovik August 26, 2008 at 4:14 am #

    While HAL may produce the 70 seat turboprop eventually, I believe it’s going to be Bangalore based National Aerospace Laboratories who will do the design and development part. And having worked with NAL once before, I would tend to agree with your cynical industry source. :)

  2. Mary Kirby August 26, 2008 at 7:37 am #

    Interesting. So NAL’s claim that it is “India‚Äôs only civilian aerospace laboratory with a high level of competence” doesn’t hold water? :)

  3. RobH August 26, 2008 at 9:59 am #

    Mary, I would love to hear Mr. Udvar-Hazy’s views on the brewing single-aisle storm and maybe something candid on why Airbus and Boeing seem content to just let it pass right by.

  4. Bony777 August 28, 2008 at 12:37 am #

    private investors should take up this project…Bangalore based National Aerospace Laboratories have already made a mess of the indian Light Combat Airacft (LCA)….and now the air force & navy is buying F18 super hornets…. what waste of tax payers money…

  5. Sturmovik August 28, 2008 at 7:55 am #

    Mary,

    Well, at least the competence part doesn’t hold much water. Sure, they’ve mastered composites and autoclaves to an extent, but in terms of actual aircraft design they aren’t very competitive. The facilities and equipment are just about getting there in terms of standards, but the people and work ethic wont budge anytime soon.

    Too negative, I know, my beer mug is half empty :)

  6. Mary Kirby August 28, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    We need to remedy that, Sturmovik (the lack of beer that is :) Seriously, though, it seems rather clear that either Bombardier or Embraer will need to get on board to give this project some credability. Embraer has been awfully quiet since the story hit, and Bombardier, well, you see its rather vague response above.

  7. Sturmovik August 28, 2008 at 9:39 am #

    I doubt if either will. Both already have their bases covered in China, with Harbin and AVIC respectively, so their cheap manufacturing sources are assured. I don’t quite see what India would have to offer, except maybe that we might not make direct rip-offs of their jets :P
    Btw, you might be interested in the Mahindras of India, they are planning on making a five seater aircraft. Though there isn’t much in the news about this, i can assure you discussions are on, and the aircraft might even get built since it’s a private sector affair.
    The lack of beer has been remedied, its already evening here :)

  8. Mary Kirby August 29, 2008 at 9:26 am #

    Just a heads up, guys. Embraer is staying rather quiet on this one. “In regards to the proposed Indian Regional Jet, no previous contacts between the two companies have taken place so far on this matter,” says an Embraer spokeswoman. The company has not disclosed whether it will entertain such a proposition, however

  9. ABHADYUTI SARKAR September 29, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    WELL, INDIA IS A FULL FLEDGED SPACE SUPERPOWER,ITS A WELL KNOWN FACT NOW.
    \AND I DONT THINK ,AND ANYONE FOR THAT MATTER,BUILDING AN AIRCRAFT IS A MORE DIFFICULT PROCESS THAN ROCKETS,OR SENDING MISSONS TO MOON AND DISCOVERING WATER.
    SO,YEAH ITS QUITE POSSIBLE.
    THE CYNICAL SOURCE PERHAPS DOESNOT KNOW THAT INDIA HAD TO BUILD EVERYTHING FROM SCRATCH AND I DO BELIEVE BUILDING EVERYTHING FROM SCRATCH IS A BIT MORE TIME CONSUMING,HENCE THERE ARE DELAYS,BUT ITS ALL IN THE PROCESS AND ITS A LEARNING THING.
    INDIANS DO NOT BOAST THE FACT THAT THE FIRST INDIGENOUS SPACE LAUNCH VEHICLE TOOK OFF SUCCESSFULLY AFTER JUST ONE FAILURE WHILE THE US TOOK 5 SUCH TESTS.

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