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HAL emerges as frontrunner for Indian air taxi turboprop

Hindustan Aeronautics is likely to be the production house for India's first civil transport aircraft, a 14-seat multirole twin turboprop now in testing. India plans to certificate the aircraft to US Federal Aviation Administration Part 25 air transport standards for sales in the air taxi, commercial and military VIP markets by the 2010 timeframe.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT64-66-powered aircraft was designed and developed by the Bangalore-based National Aerospace Laboratories, part of the state-owned Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Indian air force, which has ordered more than a dozen Saras aircraft to replace its Dornier fleet for VIP transport and aerial surveys, is favouring Bangalore-headquartered HAL to build the aircraft, although HAL had previously shortlisted two privately owned Indian companies, Mahindra Aerospace and Larsen and Toubro, for the effort.

Analysts, however, say privately owned Indian industrial concerns, unlike HAL, lack the expertise to build and integrate such an aircraft.

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