National Aerospace Laboratories is gearing up to fly the third Saras twin-turboprop prototype next year and hopes to clinch certification for India's first indigenous transport aircraft in 2011.

Development of the 14-seat twin-turboprop pusher has been marred by a series of delays since its launch in 1991, including the fatal crash in March of the second prototype.

According to the head of NAL's centre for Civil Aircraft Design and Development M S Chidananda, the weight of the third prototype - PT3 - is being reduced by around 500kg (1,100lb) "through great use of composites and by fine-tuning the structural design and optimising some of the on-board systems". This will bring the aircraft closer to the desired weight of 7,100kg.

National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) Saras
 © Vladamir Karnozov

The fully production conforming aircraft will be powered by two 1,200hp (895kW) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A turboprops.

Bangalore-based NAL expects demand for around 250 aircraft over the next 15 years, which will include variants for commuter, cargo, ambulance, executive, border control and military transport operations.

The project is being funded by the Technology Development Board of the Indian Department of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, together with a number of other private and public sector industries.

Source: Flight International