Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is discussing with aircraft manufacturers a co-production tie-up on a turboprop regional aircraft and, later, a similar link for a 100 seat airliner, to meet expected demand for over 200 such aircraft in India over the next 10 years.
HAL chairman Dr Krishnadas Nair says that the efforts are part of the company's drive to take a greater role in civil aerospace, and that initial discussions have been held with Aero International (Regional), Bombardier and, before its decision to leave the regional market, Saab Aircraft about a link on the production of an existing 50-70 seat aircraft.
The possibility of ATR 42/72 production was raised during a recent visit to New Delhi by French president Jacques Chirac. For the jet requirement, Nair says that discussions are being held with several manufacturers, including Airbus Industrie, Boeing and IPTN.
The company has previously established straightforward licence production deals with civil manufacturers, including Hawker Siddeley (HS.748) and Dornier (228), but its emphasis now is on a full joint venture programme. "We are dedicating our factory at Kanpur to transport aircraft manufacture and maintenance and design roles for our joint development efforts," says Nair, who hopes that a decision will be taken in "two to three months" to launch the turboprop project.
HAL would modify and adapt the aircraft to meet the needs of Indian airlines, and hopes that it can also export the aircraft.
Applications for a co-produced turboprop include freighter and military utility roles, as well as passenger services, with HAL forecasting demand for up to 120 - and a similar number of jet aircraft - over the next few years.
The Indian Government pledged financial support of over $100 million at the time of the 1996 Bangalore air show to help kick start HAL's ambitions to increase its regional aircraft production. Talks with manufacturers have been under way for years without arriving at any conclusion.