Saturday 15 December 2018, 01:31 PM
Time to develop Indian Regional Transport Aircraft (IRTA)
By Dr. R.K.Tyagi | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 8/27/2018 4:16:55 PM
Time  to develop Indian Regional Transport Aircraft (IRTA)

Fast economic growth and all round development for the betterment of its people, India is today on a trajectory to become a world power. But there are certain goals, which demand self reliance; else the dream to become a world power cannot be realized. Defence and indigenous civil passenger aircraft are the two such goals where India needs to be self-reliant. Since the former involves some critical technology which may need some time to master but building a civil aircraft is a doable goal which can be easily achieve provided there is a serious will to do so. 

India in ancient times is credited to have best knowledge of metallurgy, mathematics, science, medicine, architecture and astrology.Noted British historian and Indologist A.L.Basham, in his book ‘Wonder that was India’ had deeply appreciated the pioneering and advanced knowledge of Indians in these fields. If we go beyond what Basham has written about India, we find in old Hindu scriptures the technology of building aerial vehicles and various deadly war weapons. 

A movie of 2015 Hawazaada depicted the story of one Shivkar Bapuji Talpade of Maharashtra who is claimed to have flown a plane in 1895, eight years before the historic flight of the American Wrights brothers in 1903. References of Vimanas flying during Ramayana period are part of Indian mythology when demon king Ravana had abducted Sita, the wife of lord Rama in his Pushpak vimana. Unfortunately, there is no historic evidence of such a vimana. There are also mentions of aircraft like Rukma and Shakuna vimanas were flying in ancient times. 

Indian ancient scripture Rig Veda has some sotras suggesting existence of aircraft technology in ancient India but no serious research has ever been made to authenticate the Vedic technology of aircraft building. A book titled ‘Vimanas of Ancient India’ authored by Dilip Kumar Kanjila was published in 1985. The book delves deep into the subject of ancient technology of aircraft building in India.

Rocket science is another big contribution of India to the world. In the 18th century Indian prince Tipu sultan had  used rockets in battles against the British East India Company and won the battles. During the second Anglo-Mysore battle in 1780 at Pollilur the rockets fired by his army set fire the British ammunition dumps resulted in his victory over the opponent’s army.

But today, the picture is extremely different. We have not been able to develop and manufacture our own passenger aircraft.This article highlights the causes of failure in domestic aircraft manufacturing and scope and potential of making indigenous civil aircraft.

Three years back on 24th July, 2015, the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI) made a request to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for creation of India’s home civil aviation aircraft programme keeping in view the following :-

• India is the only BRICS nation which does not have its own civil aircraft manufacturing programme/capabilities.  All other BRIC countries have their own civil aircraft programme.

• India today is the 9th largest civil aviation market in the world with 450 plus aircraft.  We will emerge as the third largest by the year 2022 (50 billion US dollar investments planned) and yet the entire fleet of aircraft in our country is non-Indian.  We are spearheading the BRICS bank, yet we do not fund for our own development ambition.  As a matter of fact, civil aviation is the technology driver that can catapult India into a technology powerhouse as the technology spin offs of civil aviation leads to overall technology upgradation for a nation.

• China is a fine example of how civil aircraft programme has elevated their technology prowess.  As the Indian economy grows, there will be a demand for matching growth of civil aviation which would result in more and more aircraft to be imported.  A conservative estimate indicates a demand of 500 plus regional aircraft in the civil sector in the next fifteen years in India alone.

• When astronaut Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in the year 1969, same year ISRO was established in India.  There was a group of experts at that time who said that ISRO is not required as America has already landed on moon and India can never catch up on these capabilities.  Luckily for us, the then Prime Minister did not agree  to that argument and ISRO was born.  Rest is history and we all know.

• There is no doubt that now is the time that India has its own civil aircraft programme. Unfortunately, in the last so many years, we have been deliberating the issue through Committees after Committees but no firm decision on this could be taken.  

In August, 2018, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, the Minister for Civil Aviation informed the Parliament that the Government is setting up a high level task force to develop a road map for manufacturing passenger aircraft under ‘Make in India’ programme which will decide on setting up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the Rs.10,000 crore project.  The task force will consist of experts from HAL, NAL and DRDO for appraisal.  He further stated that it is an idea  which will actually change the manufacturing infrastructure in India.

Mr. Prabhu said that we are not just trying to manufacture through this process but will also encourage anyone who has manufacturing capabilities to manufacture the aircraft so that we could bridge the gap that exists between demand and supply.  The high level task force under the Chairmanship of Minister of Civil Aviation has been taken up the issue of holistic development of the ecosphere for manufacturing civilian aircraft, helicopters and associated aviation equipment in India.

Civil Aviation Facts today

India will be 3rd largest aviation market in the world by 2020.

Airlines in India carry 2% of World Passengers.

Projected annual Air Traffic growth in India: 15% against worldwide 4.7% and Asia Pacific 6.6%.

China’s domestic traffic is 5 times that of India with only 10% higher population.

Passenger traffic in India likely to increase from 14.5 Crores (2011) to 35 Crores (2020)

Fleet expansion plan by civil operators – 1032 aircraft at investment of Rs. 76,000 Crores by 2028.

Single aisle aircraft (Airbus 319, 320, 321/ Boeing 737 class) has 69% market share.

Highest growth rate in smaller aircraft (Upto 120 seater).

Global civil MRO business expected to grow from US$ 49.5 Billions to US$ 68.4 Billions in next 10

         years. Annual  MRO growth rate in Asia pacific: 6.1% against world average of 3.3%.

Indian MRO business likely to increase from 0.7 Billions US$ to 1.5 Billions US$ by 2020.

Currently India has a fleet of 430 civil aircraft which is likely to double in next 5 to 7 years.

Engine MRO (37%) is the largest segment followed by Component/ LRU MRO (23%).

Consolidation of aerospace industry viz EADS, Boeing.

Integration of Military and Civil business to exploit synergies.

Centre of gravity of civil air traffic shifting from America/ Europe to South-east Asia.

Market Scenario and Opportunities

The regional air network in India has huge potential for growth.  World over it has been experienced that for a sustainable growth in passenger traffic, development of regional air routes is of paramount importance. The regional operators normally deploy a mix of 19 seater, 30 seater, 50-70 seater aircraft according to the traffic requirement. However, consistently rising cost of fuel and its implication to operating economics has again started dictating the platform selection. Regional short haul aircraft need to have features like- fuel efficiency, multi-role capability, lower emissions, low weight, low drag, excellent aerodynamic characteristics, easy maintenance, fast turnaround and host of other features to ensure economic operations.

To tap the potential opportunities offered by regional market, introduction of the right aircraft at appropriate time is of paramount importance. Going by the current and projected growth of civil aviation in the country, a gradual shift by Indian OEMs to expansion of manufacturing programme to include military, as well as, civil requirements is being aimed. Similarly production needs to take into account available capability within the country and exploit the same to the fullest with the objective of optimizing the investments and cycle time. It is estimated that an Indian regional jet could initially capture a domestic market of about 400 aircraft (240 for Civil and 160 for Services) and subsequently aim for overseas orders of another 500 aircraft.

Framework of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)

The project would aim to design, develop and manufacture in the country a regional aircraft. A 70-100 seater plane had been envisaged by the Expert Committee which had gone into the issue in depth.The project may be undertaken by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to be set up by HAL and NAL who would fund its initial work. The Government may thereafter, fund this project. Initial funding of around Rs. 20 crs will be done by the SPV (JV) partners.

The design and development work for the airframe and platform with system integration may be undertaken after identifying a fuel efficient engine from a global OEM with the objective of producing an aircraft that has a globally competitive cost per passenger kilometer. The SPV should ideally adopt the model of being a system integrator and doing final assembly. It would work in partnership with Tier-1 suppliers from the initial stage for design, development and subsequent production.

The SPV be Board run and have core teams for-

a) Interacting with airlines to get a realistic assessment of customer needs

b) Choosing the engine partner in a fair and transparent process, and

c) Drawing up the road map for identifying Tier-1 partners.

The scope and objectives of the JVC/SPV shall include activities for design, development, manufacture, marketing and product support of 70-100 seater class aircraft  and its derivatives as per the DPR in due course of implementation of the Project. The scope of the JVC/SPV shall be defined in phases as given   below:

a) Phase-I : The JVC/SPV shall identify the engine(s) for the proposed aircraft, broadly determine the number of Tier-1 suppliers to be involved in the program, making realistic cost and time estimates for design & development of aircraft and submitting a proposal to the government for seeking funds.  

b) Phase II : The JVC/SPV shall carry out the following activities during phase II:

i. Preliminary & detail design of proposed aircraft, studies and development works, including

        scientific-research works in wind tunnel tubes, flight researching centers etc.

ii. Prototypes production, including special parts & components & prototypes for specified tests;

iii. Test benches production for factory testing of proposed aircraft;

iv. Factory testing of proposed aircraft, including flight tests;

v. Flight aircraft tests of proposed aircraft, including flights for certification in accordance with

        agreed procedures;                                                             

c) Phase III : The JVC/SPV shall carry out the following activities during phase III:

i. Establishments of production facilities in accordance with technical requirements;

ii. Serial production of the proposed aircraft;

iii. Support for maintenance and exploitation of proposed aircraft; supply of ground and role support 

         equipment;

iv. Modification and re-equipping of proposed aircraft on the basis of updated design

        and technology;

v. Life extension of aircraft, engines and aggregates of proposed aircraft;

vi. Supply of aircraft, engines, aggregates and spares to customers;

vii. Rendering of engineering consultancies, transfer of technology, “know-how” and technical

        assistance to customers

viii. Setting up of repair, overhaul and service facilities 

ix.  Impart training to customers.

Taking into account the proposed aircraft as a platform, the JVC/SPV at an appropriate stage of development of the proposed aircraft, will take up the design, development, production and product support of other derivative versions.

Conclusion

Recently Ministry of Civil Aviation initiated UDAN I and II programme wherein 94 new proposals for fixed wing aircraft were accepted.  In total 453 new routes connecting India’s remote areas through aircraft and helicopters are planned to be opened up.  IRTA can provide an excellent support to these efforts of Govt. of India besides providing a technological confidence to India, the emerging super power of the world.

Dr. R.K. Tyagi

(The author, Dr. R.K. Tyagi is the President of Aeronautical Society of India and former Chairman of HAL and CMD of Pawanhans Helicopters Ltd. Email: rktyagi.hal@gmail.com)

Tags:

develop,Indian,Regional,Transport,Aircraft,(IRTA),Indologist,Hawazaada,Pushpak vimana,Rukma,ammunition

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