Saras back from the brink again as NAL targets 2013 certification

Bangalore
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After a break of two years, Bangalore's National Aerospace Laboratories has resumed development of its Saras 14-seat multi-role transport aircraft following production authorisation approval by India's civil aviation authority.

The Saras programme has been hampered for more than two decades by a host of setbacks including political, technical and design issues. The latest delay came in 2009 when the second prototype of the twin-engined, push-prop aircraft crashed outside Bangalore, killing all three crew members.

saras, national aerospace laboratories
 © National Aerospace Laboratories

NAL director Alevoor Upadhya says the company will press ahead with development of modified prototype. The first prototype will be upgraded to meet the latest design criteria including higher-thrust 1,200hp (895kW) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A engines and improvements to the flight control and flight operations systems.

A first flight is scheduled for August, says Upadhya, adding that NAL is working in parallel to reduce the weight of the first production aircraft by around 500kg (1,100lb) through the "extensive use of composites and by fine-tuning the structural design and optimising some of the on-board systems".

This aircraft is due to make its first flight by the end of 2011 leading to certification and first deliveries in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Saras is targeted at regional airlines, charter, corporate and air ambulance operators as well as border control, surveillance and aerial survey providers.