A prototype of the Hindustan Aeronautics HJT-36 Sitara intermediate jet trainer has crashed during a routine test flight over a sparsely populated area in the south Indian state of Tamilnadu.

Initial reports say both test pilots managed to eject to safety, and that the aircraft did not cause any damage to property when it hit the ground.

Designed as a replacement for the Indian air force's obsolete HAL-built Kiran jet trainers, the Sitara is a conventional subsonic design with low swept wings, a staggered cockpit and small air intake on either side of its fuselage.

The development schedule of the HJT-36 has already been delayed because of the need to replace the design's original Snecma Larzac 04H20 engine with an NPO Saturn 55I powerplant. The programme also slipped following an accident which damaged a prototype aircraft during the Aero India show in 2007. This was subsequently returned to flight status.

Source: Flight International