Hindustan Aeronautics appoints new chairman

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Hindustan Aeronautics has appointed Ashok Nayak as its chairman from 1 April. He replaces Ashok Baweja, who had been at the helm of India’s sole aircraft manufacturer for just over four years before retiring on 31 March.

Nayak is a trained mechanical engineer and joined the state-owned firm as a management trainee in 1971. He was last the managing director of HAL’s Bangalore Complex, and previously oversaw key programmes such as the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, the license-production of the BAE System Hawk jet trainer, and the manufacturing of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.

“With the offset opportunity and massive new programmes coming up, HAL must find ways and means to capture all these opportunities for a safe and secure future. We have made an impact in the international market and will now have to focus on our exports further to stay ahead in the race,” Nayak says in a statement.

He takes over at a time when HAL is trying to increase its export market, take advantage of the booming Indian aerospace industry, and expand its reach in the civil aviation market. Last year, the company achieved a major milestone after Ecuador ordered seven of its Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters. This was the first major export sale for the type.

In the coming years, in the defence sector, the company will licence-produce the fighter selected as the winner of India’s medium multi-role combat aircraft, develop a combat helicopter and utility helicopter for the armed forces, and jointly develop a fifth-generation fighter and multi-role transport aircraft with Russia.

In the civil market, the company will work with other Indian companies to design the proposed Indian Regional Jet. It is also developing the Saras 14-seat light transport push-prop. HAL also has plans to set up a major maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at the old Bangalore airport, where it could also set up a plant to convert old passenger aircraft into cargo aircraft.

On Thursday, the company reported profits before tax of 22.6 billion rupees ($449 million) for the year ended 31 March, up 4.4% from the 21.64 billion rupees that the Indian state-owned firm earned a year before.

Turnover was 102.6 billion rupees, a 19% jump from the 86.25 billion rupees reported a year ago. The company, which comes under the defence ministry's purview, will declare its net profit only when it presents its accounts to the Indian parliament in September. Its net profit for the 2007-08 fiscal year was 16.32 billion rupees.

The company said that the Ecuador order was a significant breakthrough in the last year”. It adds that it has met all of the ministry's targets for the last fiscal year with this performance, and that its order book stands at 600 billion rupees.