Business Standard

Volume IconDornier 228: India's first indigenous commercial flight

The indigenously built Dornier 228 aircraft was, for the first time, used to carry passengers in Assam's Dibrugarh last month. Take a peek into the aircraft built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd

ImageBhaswar Kumar New Delhi
Dornier

The deafening noise of Dornier 228 aircraft completely drowned the sound of clapping at Assam’s Dibrugarh airport on 12th of April. But it didn’t stop those at the airstrip from cheering.

On-board the 17-seater aircraft were Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Union law minister Kiran Rijuji -- who were flying into history.

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Built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd or HAL, the light-weight aircraft was so far used to transport troops, carry out maritime surveillance and several other government missions.

But, on April 12th, it took off on its first commercial flight between Assam’s Dibrugarh and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh.

From 1985 to the early 1990s, a regional airline called Vayudoot used Dorniers to service 100-odd airports across India. The Dornier-228 made up close to half of Vayudoot’s fleet of 21 aircraft.

Back then, however, it was a German-made aircraft. Unfortunately, there were multiple reports of engine failure during flight. In fact, in 1989, a flight from Pune to Hyderabad crashed and killed all 11 on-board. Vayudoot wound up in 1997. However, the HAL-built plane is based on a new generation of Dornier 228 aircraft. 

Until recently, the Dornier-228 aircraft were being manufactured under licence from RUAG, a Swiss company. While HAL would supply the fuselage, wings and tail unit, the aircraft itself would be assembled at RUAG’s German facility.

So, what about the Do-228s that have been on commercial jaunts in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam for Alliance Air? These aircraft have been made in India from the raw material stage itself.  

The aircraft will now help the government meet its targets of providing air connectivity to tier 2 and tier 3 cities of the country under its UDAN scheme.

UDAN's aim is to make air travel both affordable and widespread. One of the ways it does this is by connecting unserved airports and airstrips across the country.

Recently, HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan told Business Standard that there were over 150 airports and airstrips that were only suitable for less than 20-seater aircraft, which is the class the Dornier-228s fall in. 

Therefore, airline operators can fly Dornier-228s on routes connecting such airports and airstrips. According to Madhavan, the Northeast, with its challenging hilly terrain and the difficulty of travelling there by rail or road, was the obvious area to begin with.

It is a modest start. However, Madhavan is confident that the use of two civil Dornier-228s by Alliance Air will bring in other operators, who would also be prospective HAL customers, into the regional aviation market.


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First Published: May 24 2022 | 7:00 AM IST

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