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HAL to weigh engine options for Indian regional airliner

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will explore engine options for India’s proposed regional transport aircraft (RTA) to decide whether the 70-100 seat aircraft will be powered by a turboprop or a jet engine.

In a six-page request for information (RFI) document posted on HAL’s website, the state-owned aircraft maker says that the RTA will be “configured around a proven high technology propulsion system".

Key features to be assessed will be the powerplant’s fuel consumption and maintenance intervals.

“Present estimates show that such an engine will be required around 2017,” says the RFI. “Based on the selection and availability of engines at that time, a suitable aircraft configuration will be tailored based on earlier work.”

A source familiar with India’s RTA ambitions says that after HAL selects an engine, the entire aircraft will be designed around it.

The RFI estimates that 10 engines will be required for use aboard prototype aircraft in 2017, with the aircraft to go into production in 2019. Production of the RTA is tentatively planned to run for 20 years, with 80 engines delivered annually during peak production years – enough to supply 40 aircraft.

It calls on manufacturers to provide a range of details, from noise to spares and installation issues.

The RFI also says that a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will eventually be set up for the RTA programme, with HAL and National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) being the lead agencies.

Although HAL’s RFI appears to mark a step in the development of the RTA, there is still a number of question marks around the programme. The RFI refers to both a 70-100 seat and a 90-100 seat aircraft, suggesting that the aircraft’s exact capacity has yet to be pinned down.

In mid-2013, New Delhi gave in-principle approval for the programme, but at the time, referred to it as a 70-90 seat aircraft.

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