India's first indigenously developed civil aircraft, the 14-seat Saras multi-purpose transport, finally had its maiden flight on 29 May after years of delay.

Powered by a pair of rear-mounted Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66 turboprops, the aircraft took off from Hindustan Aeronautics' airfield in Bangalore and was airborne for about 30min. It reached an altitude of 7,000ft (2,140m) and a maximum speed of 140kt (260km/h).

BR Pai, director of the Indian National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) which is leading development of the Saras, described the maiden flight as "highly satisfactory".

The Saras has a maximum take-off weight of 6,100kg (13,400lb) with a payload of 1,230kg and a maximum speed of about 325kt, and is designed to cruise at an altitude of up to 35,000ft. It can also operate from semi-prepared airstrips. The transport aircraft's empty weight is understood to be significantly above specification and NAL is currently working to address this.

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



Source: Flight International