Wants to use the aircraft for light cargo purpose in North East region
The Indian postal department has shown interests in the 14-seaters civil aircraft 'Saras' being built by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), the aerospace R&D lab owned by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR). Even though the Rs 200 crore project is delayed pending clearance from the inquiry commission appointed by the director general of civil aviation (DGCA) to probe into the recent crash, NAL says that Indian Posts is interested in using this aircraft for light cargo purposes, especially in the North East region.
"They (Indian Posts) have shown some interests .. we need to follow up on that. We have planned to go to Delhi and make a presentation to the Postal Department, after obtaining the DGCA approval, as we need to understand their requirements," A R Upadhya, director if NAL told Business Standard.
Since the specifications of the postal department, according to NAL, are expected to be different from that of a passenger aircraft, the aircraft will require a different certification standard called FAR 23. NAL has already announced that the Indian Air Force (IAF) wants to be the launch customer for the aircraft once it is ready. IAF has shown interest to procure 14 Saras aircraft in the first phase, which will be followed by 30 more.
Following the crash of the prototype-2 (PT-2) of the aircraft during a test flight in March this year, DGCA had appointed a committee to probe into the mishap. The committee is yet to furnish the report. In the interim, NAL is preparing itself to take all kinds of corrective measures based on the report, during the designing of prototype 3 (PT-3) which is expected to be ready in the third quarter of 2010. NAL is planning to reduce the structural weight of the PT-3 further by using composite materials and making some design changes.
"There are certain activity with regard to Saras project what we can progress only after the DGCA report is issued, because we need to know what exactly led to the crash. There has been a slight delay in the issuance of the report, but they have told us that the report would be issued any time from now. Whatever actions are required to be taken based on the report, we are ready for that," Upadhya added.
Meanwhile, NAL is soon planning to sign an MoU with state-owned aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to manufacture the Saras aircraft at their Kanpur facility. Once the MoU is signed, NAL will transfer the technology to HAL to enable it manufacture the aircraft. Before that, NAL intends to manufacture two Saras aircraft on its own.
HAL's Transport Aircraft Division in Kanpur has the expertise in manufacturing similar aircraft like Dornier (Do) 228 which is currently in use by the Indian Air Force for varieties of roles.
Saras, which is named after Indian crane, is a multi-role aircraft ideal for executive transport, light package carrier, remote sensing and aerial research service, coast-guard, border patrolling and air ambulance. The aircraft is equipped with two rear-mounted turbo-prop Pratt and Whitney engines, and capable of carrying a weight in the range of 1,200-1,500 kg.