The Indian Government has cleared Rs1.3 billion ($30 million) for the manufacture of the Saras twin turboprop, India's first indigenous venture into civil aircraft production.

Following cabinet approval in June, the government-owned National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and its partners will begin work on two prototypes of the 14-seat light transport aircraft. NAL is aiming to fly the first Saras during the second half of next year. Project officials say airworthiness tests could take two more years and production may begin in early 2003.

Designed for short take-off and landing operations, the Saras will be powered by two Pratt & Whiney Canada PT6A turboprops mounted in pusher configuration on the rear fuselage. Its uses include a commuter airliner, aerial surveillance and executive transport.

A market for at least 200 aircraft is forecast from domestic operators over the next 10 years. NAL is also targeting export sales. "It will be state-of-the-art and competitively priced, perhaps up to $500,000 cheaper than competing aircraft," says Dr Krishnaswamy Yegnanarayan, Saras project director.

The design, in which Russia participated, dates to the early 1990s, but stalled because of government insistence on the need for industry participation. Industry partners for the development phase include Hindustan Aeronautics and Taneja Aerospace.

Source: Flight International