The Saras Flies!

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Postby shiv » 22 Aug 2004 18:56

MT Singha wrote:A sqdn leader of 1974 would be retired by now or atleast still not stuck in the next rank after 30 years !!


He could have retired from the Air Force and then joined NAL as a test pilot.

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Postby SaiK » 22 Aug 2004 18:57

u mean wing commander..
============

The prototype, with two rear-mounted 800HP Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines, weighed about 5.8 tonnes, estimated to be 10-12 percent heavier than originally envisaged at the design stage. Saras has 500kg of instrumentation on board.

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Postby Ashutosh » 22 Aug 2004 19:46

GD, Lufthansa flies a B-747 daily from Frankfurt to Bangalore and back. Same applies to Bombay and Delhi.

Anyways, congratulations on the inaugral flight of Saras!

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Postby vipin » 22 Aug 2004 22:23

Hi
I had a query regarding saras. IS it only a transport aircraft or can it also be used to replace dronier for maritine security.

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Postby SaiK » 22 Aug 2004 23:38

I think its a platform so to speak.. top it, stuff it, with whatever within weight limits should be fine to use any applicaiton. Make it a mini-awacs, or a mini-sentry, or a mini-airbourne laser weapons platform, is upto our capability and imagination. [imho]

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Postby SaiK » 23 Aug 2004 02:15

This is the seventh test flight of the indigenously built aircraft which is only 350 kg heavier than it is supposed to be...

The aircraft is capable of a maximum flying speed of 550 km per hour at a cruise altitude of 7.5 km.

http://deccanherald.com/deccanherald/aug232004/i4.asp

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Postby vipin » 23 Aug 2004 02:44

thats great!! so they managed to reduce the weight of the plane by 550kg. i hope the next PV will be th reqd weight.

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Postby JaiS » 23 Aug 2004 15:16

Saras takes wings smoothly
http://www.htnext.com/news/5922_964441,001500230000.htm


THE PROTOTYPE of the country’s first civilian aircraft, Saras, made its inaugural flight successfully here on Sunday morning.

Minister of state for science and technology Kapil Sibal witnessed the 20-minute flight of the 14-seater multi-role aircraft. It has been designed and built by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bangalore.

The prototype’s flight was originally scheduled for last month but was postponed due to technical snags. The aircraft first took to the skies on May 29.

Saras is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 550 km an hour at a cruise altitude of 7,500 feet and is designed to take off and land on short semi-prepared runways.

It can be used as air taxi, ambulance, for aerial survey, reconnaissance or carrying cargo.
The aircraft will be tested for about 500 hours before certification is obtained from the Director General of Civil Aviation.

Sibal said the aircraft was expected to be ready for production by 2010. The break-up of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s and non-availability of components used in the manufacture of civilian aircraft due to sanctions imposed by the United States following India’s nuclear tests in 1998, led to delays in the project, the minister said.

In 1999, the Indian government gave clearance for the creation of two prototypes and one structural specimen at a total cost of 1.3 billion rupees (28 million dollars), which has now been revised to 1.5 billion rupees.

NAL officials said the Indian Air Force had ordered six aircraft for training and troop movement. About 150 Saras-class aircraft would be required in the next 10 to 15 years, they added.

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Postby JaiS » 23 Aug 2004 15:17

India test-flies small aircraft
http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.as ... ueID=27156


BANGALORE: India successfully flight-tested yesterday a prototype of its 14-seater civilian aircraft whose development had been delayed by US sanctions, officials said.

The inaugural flight of the aircraft, christened "Saras" (Crane), lasted 20 minutes, officials and witnesses said.

The plane has been designed to land and take-off on semi-prepared runways, said Kapil Sibal, India's junior minister for Science and Technology

It was designed and developed by the National Aeronautics Laboratory based in this southern city with help from India's Aeronautical Development Agency and the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

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Postby JaiS » 23 Aug 2004 15:21

Commercial production of SARAS likely by 2008
link
23/8/04

India’s first indigenous civil aircraft SARAS, designed and developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), is likely to be put into commercial production by 2008. This scenario emerged after the successful inaugural flight took place in Bangalore today.

The light transport aircraft, with rear mounted twin turboprop engines, has been built over a period of five years, costing Rs 158 crore with 70 per cent indigenisation.

SARAS is capable of carrying 14 people at a maximum speed of 550 km at a cruise altitude of 7.4 km. NAL, after successful inaugural flight has to test fly its second prototype which is expected to take place during the course of next year.

Between the two prototypes, about 500 hours of flight-testing is planned for obtaining DGCA certification as per the FAR-25 (Federal Aviation Regulations of the US) standards.

This is likely to take about 24-30 months time from now, as each and every aspect has to be thoroughly checked from the points of view of both aircraft safety and performance. In the current avatar, the aircraft weighs nearly 800 kg more than the design specification of 6,100 kg.

Speaking to the media after the flight, Kapil Sibal, minister of state for science and technology and ocean development, said: “We are proud of this aircraft which is our flight into the future. It is true that the craft weighs more than the design specification. During the course of regular development we intend to shave this off considerably so that it meets global standards.”

He added that Indian Air Force has shown keen interest in buying six aircraft and has also indicated that it will be adding 10 more SARASs at a later stage.

HAL is expected to take up the full-scale production of SARAS, in addition to other private agencies. Sibal said in commercial production, SARAS is expected to cost between Rs 30-33 crore.

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Postby JaiS » 23 Aug 2004 15:21

Deleted - Double Post.
Last edited by JaiS on 23 Aug 2004 15:31, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby JaiS » 23 Aug 2004 15:22

Indian passenger aircraft soars through skies in test
http://news.newkerala.com/india-news/in ... ws&id=9266


India's first home grown multi-role transport aircraft soared into the sky here Sunday, boosting the spirits of hundreds of scientists and engineers associated with the Rs.1.58-billion project.

Designed and developed by Bangalore-based National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), the first prototype of the Saras took to the skies from the airport here for a 20-minute flight through partially cloudy skies.

The test flight was conducted in the presence of Minister of State for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) director-general R.A. Mashelkar, Science and Technology Secretary V.S. Ramamurthy and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) Chairman N.R. Mohanty.

Sibal hailed the flight as a landmark achievement for the Indian aeronautical industry.

"It's a historic moment and a proud achievement for India. This is not the time to look back at how long it took and what it cost but to cherish its success. This is a flight into the future. We should be proud and hail it as a success story," Sibal said.

The prototype's flight was originally scheduled for last month but was postponed due to technical snags. Saras first took to the skies May 29.

Sibal congratulated the scientific community for building an indigenous civil aircraft despite various hurdles and US sanctions.

"I feel it's time the press and the electronic media have a positive attitude towards our great heroes and salute them rather than giving negative reports," he said.

Squadron Leader K.K. Venugopal of the Indian Air Force (IAF), who piloted the aircraft with co-pilot Wing Commander R.S. Makker, told reporters Saras flew at an altitude of 800-900 feet at a speed of 130 knots (250km) an hour.

"Though we flew much higher in the earlier six test flights, we have flown today in a very controlled manner for the inaugural function and went 10-15km in distance, as we had to keep flying over the airfield for most of the time to demonstrate its performance," Venugopal said.

"Since it is a prototype, we did not go very fast, but remained within the telemetry range. We touched about 8,000 feet, the maximum height for this type of aircraft, during our test flights and a speed of 150 knots an hour.

"All the flight parameters functioned well. We had a smooth take off and perfect landing. The wind and other weather conditions were quite favourable."

The prototype, with two rear-mounted 800HP Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines, weighed about 5.8 tonnes, estimated to be 10-12 percent heavier than originally envisaged at the design stage. Saras has 500kg of instrumentation on board.

The 14-seater aircraft is capable of being used in multiple roles like feeder line aircraft, air taxi, air ambulance, executive aircraft, troop transport, aerial survey and reconnaissance and light cargo transport.

The IAF's aerobatic team, the Surya Kirans, escorted the Saras as chase aircraft.

NAL director B.R. Pai said the second Saras prototype would be ready in a year's time.

"The first prototype will undergo about 500 hours of flights before it goes to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for certification and airworthiness tag, conforming to the federal aviation regulations," Pai said.

The IAF has given NAL and HAL a letter of intent for manufacturing six Saras aircraft. The cost of the aircraft is yet to be worked out.

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Postby JaiS » 23 Aug 2004 15:30

Saras: India's own civilian aircraft
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cms. ... 824321.cms


BANGALORE: India marked the successful inaugural flight of a 14-seater plane on Sunday, with hopes that the project could launch it into a global consortium for mid-sized aircraft.

"Saras", named after an Indian crane, took off over blue skies in India's technology capital of Bangalore, marking a milestone in the six year state-funded project.

The venture is a long haul for India, whose airlines buy all its passenger aircraft from global firms like Boeing and Airbus. India also sources most of its military aircraft from overseas, but makes some small military planes.

The Saras prototype cost around 330 million rupees ($7.1 million) to make at the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL).

India, with its low-cost engineers, is keen to emulate the success of Brazil's Embraer, the world's No 4 civilian aircraft maker, in the market for planes used in executive travel, cargo, surveys and rescue.

The Indian Air Force has expressed interest in buying six Saras aircraft, to be made by NAL in partnership with state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and private firms.

India has been approached by a consortium that comprises Russia's Sukhoi design bureau and NPO Saturn, Boeing and France's Snecma with an offer to join as a partner, said N R Mohanty, HAL's chairman.

He added that some 5,000 planes of 60-95 seat capacity were expected to be sold across the world in the period up to 2020.

In order to build the plane India had to overcome US sanctions linked to India's nuclear tests in 1998. The country suffered in importing components after US imposed sanctions against export of civilian parts that could be put to military use after New Delhi staged nuclear tests in 1998.

The sanctions have since been lifted.

T S Prahlad, a project consultant and former head of NAL, said after the launch that about 60-70 per cent of Saras's parts were made in India but the engine and avionic equipment were imported.

He added, however, that there were still some hurdles to cross in building the aircraft.

"We have quite a lot to do before making Saras a commercially viable aircraft," he said.

Critics say Saras, at 6.9 tonnes, is 800 kg overweight in relation to its original estimate but its makers said the additional weight only added to passenger comfort. A second prototype with improved features is expected within a year.

The federal government is also looking at buying 30 planes, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said recently.

Saras can help connect remote corners of India's sprawling rural areas besides laying the ground for serving a lucrative global market, officials said. They said India could make such aircraft roughly 20 per cent cheaper than key rivals.

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Postby JTull » 24 Aug 2004 15:39

Naughty Little Saras

THE Indians have proven it once again: they can be as ingenious as anybody. They have now designed and flown a civilian aircraft! Sqn Ldr K K Venugopal of the Indian Air Force, who piloted the 14-seater Saras designed by the National Aerospace Laboratories for 20 minutes over Bangalore and the vicinity, must have been thrilled on etching his and the aircraft’s name in the golden book of Indian history. When on May 29, less than three months ago, he took off with Saras on its first experimental flight, the clapping would not stop among the gathering on the ground at the HAL ( Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) airport even after the aircraft had turned into a speck in the sky, the pride and joy was so overwhelming. The sight of Saras taxiing and being airborne without any problem at all was so uplifting and heart-warming that people exploded into an applause spontaneously, without any cue. Sqn Ldr Venugopal was so overwhelmed by the huge cheers he received on his landing that he just commented: “We’re just normal human beings trained to test fly aircraft. We are simply doing our job; it’s your reaction that makes us feel special”.

Sqn Ldr Venugopal’s humility was difficult to accept when he had achieved such a special feat as flying the first indigenously-made civilian aircraft in a superb and flawless manner; yet he had a point. He was just the only one of the many who had worked for it. The programme director and chief designer of Saras, Dr K Y Narayan was the other one, to begin with. He had been working on all the aspects of the aircraft for over 15 years. In a way Saras is his baby. Then there are the scores of engineers at the National Aerospace Laboraties.

Then there were people at the top level who understood the importance of the concept and managed a variety of problems that arise whenever a concept is going through the screenings and studies of the panels and committees and departments and ministries of the government. If you leave everything for the elected representatives and bureaucracy to do, practically very little you can do. So we needed men like Prof Roddam Narasimha, who was NAL director from 1984-1993 to push through the ministerial rigmarole and lay the foundations of the Saras aircraft development programmes. After the maiden flight, he had said: “I’m so pleased we stuck it out all these years in spite of such uncertainty and hardship. We never wavered.” Then there was Dr T S Prahlad, also a former NAL director, who made a very significant contribution to make the Saras dream into a reality. Saras needs improvement: its engine is heavy, its seating capacity is small, there is a lot in the technology to be upgraded. Yet what is important as of now is that we have shown that we can make a civilian aircraft on our own and in the years to come we will make bigger and bigger aircraft which will be more lighter and efficient. In the years to come we can set up manufacturing organisations in the public and private sector for producing commercial aircraft. Saras is there one more milestone in India’s march to technological knowledge.

It is in such moments of accomplishments that a nation and a people realise the importance of freedom from colonialism. But for freedom, the British and the Portuguese and the French would not have allowed us the liberty to put our talents and ingenuity on trial; they would not have given us money, as government of India did to the designers and makers of Saras, to design and develop an aircraft for the benefit of ourselves. There would not have been so much of education and so much of specialisation and so much of encouragement and so much of dedication available for making a Saras an entirely Indian accomplishment. It is national independence which has catalysed the flowering of Indian genius— and this is why it is so late!

Yet, even as Sqn Ldr Venugopal, Dr Prahlad, Dr Narayan, a host of engineers and support staff at the NAL and HAL, and the director general of CSIR, Dr R A Mashelkar uncork the champagne bottles to celebrate the successful inaugural flight of the naughty little Saras, they need to offer glasses of the sparkling drink to the ministers and mandarins in Delhi only on the condition that they give up their lazy ways and late reflexes as also their individual inquisitions with regard to projects like Saras. Now, as ever, Saras needs a free and rich flow of funds to develop itself in an all-round manner. Let the ministers and mandarins, who love so much to fly, place orders for Saras in as many number as possible. Let them also use their influence with the giant corporates— which influence nobody doubts—to persuade them to place some orders themselves. Then there will be Saras everywhere— bigger and bigger, lighter and faster.

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Postby Singha » 24 Aug 2004 17:24

is Saras envisioned as a replacement for the Do228 ? I wonder how their specs compare on range & payload ?

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Postby Sai.U » 26 Aug 2004 20:59

NAL's report on SARAS inaugural flight. (it was the 7th flight overall.)

http://www.nal.res.in/pages/ipaug04.htm

The HAL Chairman asked Mr Kapil Sibal for a gift: “we would like you to announce a first order for 30 SARAS aircraft!”.

In his generous response, the Minister of State for Science & Technology and Ocean Development, Mr Kapil Sibal told the SARAS team: “you have given a great gift to the nation today; an order for 30 aircraft would be a small way to compensate this effort”. (but is that an order for 30 or not? doesn't sound like it... :()

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Postby George J » 26 Aug 2004 21:07

He he he...Kapil Sibal is a lawyer aint he??? Thats lawyer speak for ya.

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Postby Sridhar » 26 Aug 2004 21:27

Lawyer or not, no S&T minister can commit an order for 30 planes on the spot. He has to get cabinet approval for any project that costs more than a certain amount. Proposals have to be written and cleared by the Finance Ministry before any committment can be given.

And importantly, users have to be found for those 30 planes. Who will fly it? The order will be placed by the Home Ministry, in case it is to be used by the CPMFs. Or it will be placed by Indian Airlines if it is going to fly it etc. The S&T ministry does not come into the picture. Its role is to fund the development of the Saras. It is kind of pointless asking Sibal to place an order for 30 planes.

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Postby Singha » 26 Aug 2004 21:38

Saras sounds like a ideal vehicle for our bunch of netas to
hop from place to place with a few hangers on in tow. hope
someone whispers the idea in the parliament canteen.

in the process we get our goal done

:twisted:

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Postby Sai.U » 26 Aug 2004 22:58

i agree.... and now that i think about it... this kind of ambush "requesting" in public gatherings has to stop. i recall my school principal making such ambush requests at some school event where the chief guest was a rich guy (and a parent of a school kid, of course.)

but since everyone knows how to politely brushoff such requests also, there's a healthy equilibrium. :D

Sridhar wrote:Lawyer or not, no S&T minister can commit an order for 30 planes on the spot.

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Postby ArunK » 27 Aug 2004 12:30

I was there for the inagural flight of Saras, I am leaving Bangalore for US today so do not have time to write a detailed account.

I will update you all next week. Let me just say that it was wonderful. The pity is that they did not allow anyone to bring cameras. But they gave all invitees a 1:72 scale model of Saras that is simply beautiful.

Someone asked about that 747 in the background. That was a cargo plane operated by Atlas Air. That plane was waiting for clearance to take off when another 747-400 from Singapore Airlines landed.

:)

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Postby Neela » 27 Aug 2004 12:55

maybe we should let Dileep Chhabria design the passenger cabin and let the netas have a look at it then.

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Postby Neela » 27 Aug 2004 13:00

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/828727.cms

Saras is not all that indigenous: the crucial part, the engine, is imported and so are many of the avionic parts. Only 60 per cent of Saras's parts are made in India.


The 14-seater medium-haul aircraft has very few takers. Apart from catering to a few executives, the 14-seater model is incapable of meeting even short-haul demand.

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Postby Shwetank » 27 Aug 2004 19:14

Neela wrote:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/828727.cms

Saras is not all that indigenous: the crucial part, the engine, is imported and so are many of the avionic parts. Only 60 per cent of Saras's parts are made in India.


The 14-seater medium-haul aircraft has very few takers. Apart from catering to a few executives, the 14-seater model is incapable of meeting even short-haul demand.


gah.... tht article's author needs to be slapped :evil: . he's obviously one of those idiots whose so caught up in the wonder of the west. jeeez.. he seems so immature. and saying 10 years negates any technical achievments is horrible. he's one of those indians who sits and whines all day long and wishes he was born a white american... doesn't he know ur economy eventually benefits more if you build ur own planes....

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Postby JTull » 27 Aug 2004 19:56

These numbers like 60% indian parts is something I've never understood. These guys just pull any no. out of their @ss and deliberately try to mislead general public.

60% can be by
1. weight
2. value (cost)
3. no. of parts

Then the guy who actually designs the plane and and integrates the different stuff doesn't get any credit in this ignorant's number.

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Postby Amitabh » 27 Aug 2004 20:06

The author obviously has never heard of either Embraer or IPTN.

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Postby putnanja » 27 Aug 2004 21:41

And he doesn't know that there are only a handful of aircraft engine makers in the world, which all civilian aircraft manufacturers use. Perhaps someone should remind him that even airbus and boeing don't build their own engines :)

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Postby chilarai » 30 Aug 2004 10:48

Saras: A filght to the future


MAPPING THE SARAS ROUTE

Feb 1990: Feasibility report on Light Transport Aircraft based on mandate by NAL's Research Council
1991 to 1997: Low-key design studies, partly with a Russian design bureau
1998: Technology Development Board agrees to provide 50 per cent funding, HAL agrees to join as industrial partner, Ministry of Civil Aviation agrees to provide some finance
June 1999: The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs okays the Light Transport Project SARAS at a cost of about Rs 132 cr
September 1999: NAL receives project sanction and release of funds. Detailed technical work starts
February 2003: Roll-out of first prototype of SARAS
April 2003: Engine ground run and checking of all systems
April 2004: Low speed taxi trial starts
May 28, 2004: Completion of 18 low-speed and high-speed taxi trials
May 29, 2004: First experimental flight
August 22, 2004: Formal inaugural flight

---------------
Guess such huge time gap as between Feb 1990 to Sept 1999 will be forever seen in any indian project.

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Postby JCage » 30 Aug 2004 10:54

Guess such huge time gap as between Feb 1990 to Sept 1999 will be forever seen in any indian project.

Time gaps are impacted by funding. Open your wallet and see how things move along.

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Postby JaiS » 14 Sep 2004 12:22

Manmohan for making science attractive career option


Conferring the first Diamond Jubilee Technology Award of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to the Tata Group, Manmohan Singh lauded the industry group's efforts in designing, developing and fabricating the Indica car.

"It is a matter of great pride for all of us today that the Indian Indica is being sold in the British market as City Rover. Tata's Indica is a tribute to Indian creativity, enterprise and team spirit, as well as to the dynamism of the Tata Group led by Ratan Tata," said the prime minister.

Referring to India's indigenously designed civilian aircraft Saras, Manmohan Singh said: "To me, Saras is not an aircraft, just as Indica is not a car.

"Both stand for India's determination to win in the global technology race. It is this spirit that must propel us forward."

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A long way to fly

Postby RobinM » 16 Sep 2004 23:37

A long way to fly

The successful inaugural flight of Saras does not in any way alter the fact that India's first indigenous civilian aircraft has a serious problem to be solved before it can achieve its design goals. :roll:

http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2119/st ... 709700.htm

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Postby chola » 17 Sep 2004 12:33

The title is worse than the actual story. There is a ready solution in the article - a more powerful engine that is already available from PW.

The second prototype will be built around the new engine.

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Postby Sohum » 22 Sep 2004 02:51

I'm not sure if this has been posted already, but I think its necessary to have all opinions about SARAS brought forward-including the Marxists.

"Saras Flies: But Where To?

People's Democracy Vol. XXVIII No.24 June 13, 2004

Raghu

THE first Indian-made civilian passenger aircraft Saras, named after the Indian crane, took to the air in its maiden flight last week. Media stories and various commentators have promptly hailed this as a historic achievement, as is usually the case with achievements in science and technology, which may show that India is at least catching up with developed countries. Perhaps patriotic fervour and understandable excitement lay behind some of the opinions such as that Saras represented a milestone in aviation or that it had launched India into the forefront of the world’s aviation industry. Sadly, neither is true. Saras is indeed a considerable step forward in Indian aeronautics but, given the rather long history of the Indian aviation industry, longer than in most developing countries, and the huge investments made in it in terms of infrastructure and human resources, a more objective look at Saras would reveal it to be no giant leap.

DESIGN CONCEPT

Saras has been conceived as a multi-role small aircraft which can operate as a passenger carrier, executive craft, air ambulance or air rescue craft or for coast guard and other similar roles, with capacity to operate from semi-prepared airfields including in hot and high-altitude conditions which call for greater power and operational flexibility.

In its primary role as a commuter or air-taxi craft, considered best suited for short hops in regional sectors or in hub-and-spoke operations i.e., connecting smaller airports to major ones, Saras is designed to seat 14 passengers, expandable to 18. Its executive version with longer range will have 9 deluxe seats and a “combi” or combination version will have 7 economy class seats with space for mail and light packages. Saras is expected to have a maximum range of 1942 km or 6 hours endurance, a maximum cruising speed of 550 km per hour at 6000 meters (20,000 feet) altitude, with a maximum take-off weight of 6100 kg, fuel load of 1326 kg and a payload or load-carrying capacity (passengers, cargo or equipment or fittings) of 1232 kg.

Saras is driven by two time-tested Pratt & Whitney PT-6A-66 turbo-prop-engines (made by the Canadian subsidiary of the US aero-engine giant), or turbine-based engines which drive propellers. In Saras, the engines are mounted facing backwards in a “push” configuration at the rear of the fuselage (rather than, as is more usual, being mounted on the wings). This rather distinctive configuration, far less common in propeller-driven aircraft than in jets, has several advantages, chiefly substantial reduction in noise within the cabin and smoother airflow across the wings uninterrupted by engines and mountings. The aircraft has a pressurized roomy cabin and is fitted with the latest instrumentation and avionics as is common in contemporary small commuter and regional aircraft which seek to provide increasingly demanding paying passengers with “near-jet” flying conditions.

Saras has been designed by the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) in Bangalore, a constituent laboratory of the CSIR, an interesting aspect in itself in the context of Indian aviation. NAL has no great experience or background in aircraft design and even less so in manufacture, but it has over the years acquired considerable specialised expertise in some areas of aeronautical research such as aerodynamics, structure, composite materials, wind tunnel and other research and testing using sophisticated facilities and heavy-duty computing ability with India’s first parallel computer Flosolver. This experience and capability, together with strategic partnerships with agencies such as the Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL), the backbone of Indian aircraft manufacturing and design-development overwhelmingly in military applications, and the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), itself a consortium of several research entities and which spearheaded the development of the Light Combat Aircraft, all in Banglore, gave NAL the confidence to position itself in the ‘90s to play a major role in catalysing a “vibrant civilian aviation industry” in India.

A series of market studies in the late ‘80s, two conducted by NAL itself and two others commissioned by it, brought out the need and market potential for a “fourth level” airline in India which would operate in a “feeder” role connecting small airfields in far flung, remote or otherwise low-density locations to regional hubs or airports in larger towns or cities. The world over, it is in such sectors that small or “commuter” aircraft with 10-25 passenger capacity operate whereas “third level” carriers connecting regional hubs with metros or national hubs operate with “regional” aircraft typically with 40-70 passengers capacity. In India, aircraft in “fourth level” roles would require to be rugged, with relatively short take-off and landing lengths and capability to perform well under diverse climatic and altitude conditions, so as to operate from small, semi-prepared airfields in different parts of the country. Such capability would also enable such aircraft to perform secondary roles such as air rescue, air ambulance, coast guard, reconnaissance etc.

These studies, with considerable mutual consistency, had indicated a market potential for around 200-250 such aircraft in India itself over the next 20 years. Besides this, the studies showed good potential for such an aircraft in different markets worldwide where it could be positioned appropriately to suit prevalent conditions and passenger profiles, for example in Africa, especially in the tourist and safari circuits in rugged terrain with short runways, in the Asia-Pacific and Middle-East regions as a commuter or tourist aircraft with performance and comforts comparable to small jet aircraft, and as a low-cost aircraft to replace the ageing An-2 in the former Soviet Union. The export potential of the Saras is expected to be enhanced by its cost advantages projected to be about 30 per cent lower than comparable aircraft available in the international market.

This somewhat rosy picture, however, is in need of a reality check.

REALITY CHECK

Let us first look at the aircraft design and development programme. The NAL had begun conceptualising a programme to develop a small commuter type aircraft in 1991. But the Rs 139 crore project was beset by several hurdles, chiefly the difficulty faced by NAL to mobilise the funds required and later, after approval by the Cabinet in the late ‘90s and release of funds, the denial of critical components under US sanctions imposed in the wake of the Pokhran nuclear weapons tests blasts in 1998. Whereas detailed design exercises of various aircraft surfaces had commenced at NAL in 1996, the Project as a whole was seriously revived in 2001 with a cost escalation of 20 per cent, with funds coming from the CSIR itself, the Technology Development Board (set up by the Ministry of Science & Technology as a venture fund to promote productionisation of innovative technologies, Saras being the first governmental project to be funded by the TDB) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. NAL’s private-sector partner Banglore-based Taneja Aerospace contributes to the project in terms of manufacturing important sub-assemblies.

Saras is touted as a great achievement of indigenous science and technology. Nobody seriously expects this to mean an isolated endeavour or one not involving at least some borrowing of technologies from elsewhere and innovative “reverse engineering” to absorb new technologies into the indigenous infrastructure and capability. Yet there has been extreme shyness in acknowledging that Saras originated from a collaborative venture with the Russian (formerly Soviet) Myasischev Design Bureau based heavily on one of the latter’s highly similar aircraft codenamed “Duo” which was first displayed in the MAKS-2001 Moscow air show. Myasischev being one of the smaller Russian aviation companies, all of whom are struggling to keep their head above water in the changed environment in which the Russian aircraft industry now finds itself, had been looking for strategic investors in the ‘90s and a collaboration with NAL was agreed upon. Current developments seem to suggest that Myasischev has completely sold its “duo” technology to NAL.

Apart from the somewhat clever masking of this collaborative contribution by the Myassischev Bureau, a more serious problem has arisen with the final design and fabrication of the prototypes, the first of which flew last week. The prototype weighed 5118 kg which is disturbingly high, close to 25 per cent higher than the design empty weight of 4125 kg. On being questioned about this overweight, NAL’s project director said it was a “minor problem” which would be corrected in due course of development. Fact of the matter is that a 25 per cent weight penalty is huge and reducing it will take considerable work including some re-designing, especially since the prototype carried only 4 seats and few of the fittings and attachments which the flight model will carry. The weight penalty is likely to seriously compromise the range and fuel-carrying capacity, the fuel economy, the 3 year schedule to obtain flight certification, and will almost certainly have a negative impact on project costs and hence on the ultimate price of the aircraft, all adversely affecting the project viability.

NAL’s projected cost differential between Saras and comparable aircraft available internationally, which could have at least to some extent offset the above likely cost escalation, also do not bear close scrutiny. While NAL has claimed that Saras would cost anywhere around “a third less” than comparable aircraft, several experts have estimated the cost gap to be less than 15 per cent, considering the extent of foreign sourced components including the engine, and especially taking into account the possible poor economies of scale even with the projected demand of around 250 aircraft in 20 years.

The market, both globally and domestically, have changed significantly since the NAL studies carried out in the early ‘80s. The NAL Director informed the press soon after Saras’ maiden flight that Saras has “a market potential of about 100-150 in the domestic civilian and cargo domains”, and that too predicated on the projected 30 per cent price differential, a substantial downward revision from the 200-250 projected as the basis for launching the project. In the domestic sector this possibly shrinking market is also evidenced by the induction of 30-45 seater aircraft by feeder airlines and budget carriers in India which leaves a much smaller niche for a 14-seater commuter aircraft like the Saras except in a few regional locations. There is also considerable competition from smaller aircraft in the commuter and even in the executive segment such as the widely sold and famous planes from Beechcraft, Piper and Citation, which are nowadays also available on lease on quite favourable terms.

After the maiden test flight, the Indian Air Force promised an initial order of six Saras aircraft. Some other public sector carriers may follow suit later. But such purchases, perhaps even on cost-plus basis as in the past, may not suffice to keep the Saras programme buoyant.

FAMILIAR PROBLEM

The problem confronting NAL today is one familiar to observers of the Indian scene and the past performance of major players such as HAL. Faulty planning, time and cost overruns, lack of foresight and, to cap it, an absence of a professional work culture allowing for thoroughgoing review, criticism and a self-correction mechanism. In the Saras case, these latter flaws were pointed out by a very senior and now retired doyen of Indian aviation in a letter to a leading national daily stating that the problems of overweight and other design and fabrication problems were brought to the attention of senior NAL and CSIR officials but to no avail. These systemic problems have held Indian aviation back whereas those of some other developing countries have galloped ahead.

A good example is the Brazilian aircraft company Embraer which is now a world-class global manufacturer of regional aircraft with 40-100 seat capacity. It is worth briefly recalling the Embraer story as, by comparison, it brings out the weaknesses in the Indian system.

Embraer was set up in 1969 by the then military government in Brazil in the state sector and then privatised in 1994, whereas HAL in India which functions under the Department of Defence Production but started up in the private sector during World War II. Embraer early on identified a potential gap in the market for medium-capacity regional aircraft and based on considerable design-development work beforehand, started marketing 37-50 seater aircraft in the mid-‘90s which were virtually an overnight success. Embraer faced stiff competition from the American manufacturer Fairchild and the Canadian Bombardier and had also to contend with a World Trade Organisation ruling forcing the Brazilian government to scale back subsidies. Overcoming these odds, since 1996 Embraer has sold over 700 regional jets with capacity ranging from 35 to 90 to airlines around the world including in the US, Europe and Asia, and some Indian carriers are also currently in negotiations with the Brazilian manufacturer. Last year, it earned USD135 million on sales of USD 2.1 billion and expects sales to reach USD 3.3 billion in 2004.

Now Embraer is trying to break into a new market, for jet aircraft seating 70-100. According to the US Transportation Department, 61 per cent of all flights in the US take off with roughly that number of passengers. The new Embraer aircraft are designed to fit into a niche where larger planes of capacity greater than 100 made by Boeing and Airbus usually operate but uneconomically, using the same avionics, controls flight deck and engineering as larger planes, passenger headcounts in that range. Thus the Embraer, 170/190 series of commercial jets is designed to fill a gap between regional planes, which usually seat up to 70 people, and large commercial jets but with all the comforts of the latter. As a result of these development, Embraer is considered one of the hottest manufacturers in the aviation industry today.

It is indeed ironic that Russian manufacturer Ilyushin, maker of many famous large civilian and military transport aircraft including several in service in India, had proposed a collaboration agreement with HAL in the early ‘90s to make aircraft in just this market segment. The project was sought to be pushed during several high-profile visits by Russian government leaders to India. Even MoUs were signed but the project never even reached the drawing board stage. Today, the market for regional aircraft is nearing saturation with each of the 3 big players including Embraer having roughly 30 per cent market share. The Russians are still trying with different potential partners including China, but the task is proving increasingly difficult with over USD 30 billions worth orders having been placed for this class of aircraft.

Another bus missed by the Indian aviation industry. And Saras may prove to be a bus with few passengers left to carry."

chola
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Postby chola » 22 Sep 2004 06:05

Sohum, we will grant an exception this time in you quoting pinkos.

Just kidding, it is an informative article.

I didn't know about the design coming from the Russian Myassischev Bureau. Though I think they are overemphasizing this connection. The Saras has been around for a dozen years and even Raghu admits that the Myassischev "Duo" first appeared in 2001. So I don't think the design is all Myassischev even if they might have been consultants.

Though with the weight problem, maybe we should just blame the Russkies :twisted:

Manne
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Postby Manne » 22 Sep 2004 08:06

This isn't the first time an article from "Raghu" has appeared here. I would trust my senses and BRM articles more than articles from that author.

arun
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Postby arun » 23 Sep 2004 16:51

Extract from the People's Democracy article posted by Sohum Desai:

Yet there has been extreme shyness in acknowledging that Saras originated from a collaborative venture with the Russian (formerly Soviet) Myasischev Design Bureau based heavily on one of the latter’s highly similar aircraft codenamed “Duo” which was first displayed in the MAKS-2001 Moscow air show.


I don’t know about the “extreme shyness” bit, but the Saras programme certainly had originated from a collaborative venture, and I stress the word collaborative, with Myasischev, a fact which has been acknowledged by the Saras programme director.

Anyway the aircraft in question is not the “Duo” but the “Duet” aka M-102 Duet-Saras and it was first displayed, as a mockup, not at MAKS-2001 but MAKS-1997.

JCage
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Postby JCage » 23 Sep 2004 18:12

Manne wrote:This isn't the first time an article from "Raghu" has appeared here. I would trust my senses and BRM articles more than articles from that author.

Raghu is an a$$. In his past article he was quite categorical that LCA was inferior to everything else...coz Kaveri was a "turbojet". Yup. And pigs fly.


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