HAL symposium tackles indigenous airliner issues

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Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has hosted a meeting in Bengaluru among potential participants in India’s proposed regional transport aircraft (RTA) programme.

The meeting involved “over 100 potential business partners,” says HAL in a statement. Delegates included representatives from major international firms such as GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney.

Ajay Shankar, member secretary of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, said the “dream project should turn into reality by 2020-22…we can surprise ourselves and the world by rolling-out a medium-range civil aircraft.”

“A team of experts drawn from government agencies, private industries and research organizations participated s at the panel discussion and deliberated on the challenges on various fronts including technology, time scales, conceptual design issues, manufacturing skills needed and commercial viability,” HAL says.

Earlier in 2014, Shyam Chetty, director of India’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), which has led research into the programme, told Flightglobal that the first flight of an Indian designed and built 70-100 seat airliner will take place around 2022-2024.

The development programme, which was approved by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, will be led by a special purpose vehicle formed by NAL and HAL. It is also referred to as the National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) programme.

The meeting in Bengaluru is just the latest sign of New Delhi’s determination to move forward with the programme. In January 2014, HAL announced that it would explore engine options to decide whether the aircraft will be powered by turboprop or jet engines.

Outside analysts have questioned the commercial viability of the programme given India’s lack of experience as a commercial aircraft manufacture. They also note the challenges China has faced developing aircraft such as the Xian Aircraft MA60 and Comac ARJ21.

New Delhi, however, sees the programme as a potential source of national prestige, not to mention high quality jobs.