Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is set to begin deliveries of the civil variant of its Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) early next year, with operators in India and Israel lined up as launch customers.
Chief test pilot C D Upadhyay says the first civil Dhruv is scheduled for delivery in February or March to a commercial company in Israel that has been hired to transport military VIPs.
He says several government operators in India are planning to acquire the Dhruv next year for various missions, and local offshore oil operator Azal Aviation has signed a memorandum of understanding for one aircraft.
All these operators, including the Israeli company, will receive aircraft with conventional Indian avionics because a new version with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) avionics has not yet been certificated. Upadhyay says future export customers will be given the choice of Indian or Israeli avionics and the schedule for delivery of the first IAI-equipped aircraft hinges on customer interest.
The 5.5t Dhruv was first certificated for military operations in early 2001. Indian civil certification followed in late 2003. Upadhyay says 31 aircraft have been delivered, all military versions, including 28 to India, two to Nepal and one to Israel.
BRENDAN SOBIE / SINGAPORE
Source: Flight International