Jan. 06--MUMBAI -- Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has invited global aeronautical engine makers to supply information on their engines and integrated propulsive systems (IPS) for developing India's ambitious 70-100 seat civil aircraft programme.
In a so-called request for information (RFI) dated 26 December, posted on its website, HAL says the proposed aircraft will be configured around an IPS that will offer reduced cost, reduced fuel burn and emission and longer maintenance intervals.
"Present estimates show that such an engine will be required around 2017 time frame. Based on the selection and availability of engine at that time, a suitable aircraft configuration will be tailored based on earlier work. The aircraft will have two engines," HAL said in its RFI.
India's ambition to build civilian planes is at least 15 years old, but "this public invitation signals India is very much close to developing the civilian aircraft", said a defence expert, requesting anonymity. "India is developing its capabilities to build at least 200 civil airplanes with twin engines," he said, adding that the country does not have an aircraft engine maker to support such an ambitious programme.
HAL has completed preliminary work to launch the design and development of the civilian aircraft. Based on the initial concept and feasibility studies, the government has proposed to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with HAL and National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) as the lead agencies.
In August, the ministry of commerce and industry said it was working on a proposal to build 70-100 seater commercial planes that will connect shorter destinations. The ministry asked a committee to draw up a report on the programme.
Such planes are currently built by Bombardier Inc. of Canada, Sukhoi Superjet of Russia, Embraer SA of Brazil and ATR of France. Japan's Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. and Honda Aircraft Co. have launched small business jets recently, while Boeing Co. of the US and Airbus SAS of Toulouse are the leading builders of wide-bodied planes.
In March 2012, Bombardier had said that the Asia-Pacific region would take delivery of about 4,000 aircraft, including commercial and private jets, in the 20-149-seat category over the next 20 years. Of these, 1,300 would be sold in India, it said.
To be sure, several of India's plans to enter the manufacture of planes or similar advanced technology products have been afflicted by their share of problems. For instance, the Tejas light combat aircraft is already more than three decades in development and hasn't received final operational clearance.
In the early 2000s, HAL and ATR of France planned to make small planes for the regional market. Indian Airlines was to be a co-partner in the project, but this was a non-starter.
Copyright 2014 - Mint, New Delhi
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