India’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) remains committed to its Saras twin-turboprop aircraft, although the type has received no funding since 2013.
NAL director Shyam Chetty says that the crash of the second Saras prototype in 2009 created programme delays that pushed development funding into a third national five-year planning period. The next financial plan has been delayed owing to the government of Narendra Modi, which entered power in May 2014.
“The entire planning and funding process is looked at very differently [under the Modi government],” he says. “The Saras was one of the victims of this change financing for major programmes.”
Chetty spoke with Flightglobal at the India Aviation event in Hyderabad.
The first Saras prototype is in storage in Bangalore. This aircraft, which was extensively upgraded after the crash of the second prototype, was conducting low speed taxi tests when funding evaporated. Chetty says this aircraft is ready to resume taxi tests upon NAL obtaining fresh funding.
A third prototype is in the early stages of production, its construction frozen by lack of funds.
“As of December 2013, we had no funding to continue flight testing,” adds Chetty. “But with the government looking at civilian aviation and regional connectivity in a broader framework, we are hopeful that they will appreciate an pressurized aircraft that can operate in India’s [mountainous regions].”
He adds that the Modi government’s push for indigenous production across industries under the “Make In India” programme also bodes well for the Saras’s future.
The Saras is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprops. They are fitted to the rear of the fuselage to serve as pusher props.