From military to civil aircraft – HAL set to enter the civil aviation market

By: |
August 23, 2021 4:12 PM

This aircraft is based on the prevailing frame of the German Dornier 228 defence transport aircraft which is already used by the defence forces.

On the successful completion of these tests, the aircraft will become usable. (Image: HAL)

Last week, the state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) announced that it had successfully carried out ground run and low speed taxi trials of a commercial aircraft `Hindustan -228’. This successful trial is for `Type Certification’ by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). As has been reported earlier, after the 14 seater Saras aircraft development programme was shelved in 2009, this is the second attempt by HAL to develop civilian aircraft the 19 seater Hindustan-228 or the Do-228.

Military Aircraft to Civilian Aircraft

So far the company has been focusing on building aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) for almost six decades including the Hindustan Trainer-2 and its variant – the Hindustan Propulsion Trainer 32 (HPT-32). And most recently has successfully bagged a major contract for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) for the IAF.

Hindustan-228 or the Do-228 is for the first time ever that any company in India has produced an aircraft for the commercial market for civil transport.

Why was Saras programme shelved?

The National Aeronautics Laboratory (NAL) shelved the 14-seater Saras aircraft development program as there were multiple problems in its development. And it had to be shelved following a major crash which killed three test pilots in 2009.

HAL Division in Kanpur & Hindustan-228 (VT-KNR) aircraft

The Kanpur based Transport Aircraft Division has been identified to work on the civil aircraft and has been working on Hindustan -228. This division has been responsible for the transport and trainer aircraft for its defence and security customers.

According to the HAL officials, such small civil aircraft are going to be of immense help in the country’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN) programme. This aircraft can be used both by the civil and state authorities can use this indigenous aircraft for their intra and inter-state connectivity. And all the training, logistics and maintenance will be provided by the HAL.

This can also be used in many other roles including cloud seeding, adventure sports like Para jumping, air ambulance, passenger transport, aerial surveillance and much more.

The aircraft which is capable of night flying will have a maximum cruise speed of 428 kmph and a range of 700 kmph. The company is also looking forward to exporting this civil aircraft to neighbouring countries like Nepal.

According to reports under the UDAN scheme, there are plans to set up 1,000 new air routes and to also establish 100 new airports. And two civil demonstrators of the 19 seater Do-228 are expected to be deployed in the North East and UP.

(Image: HAL)

More about the Hindustan-228

This aircraft is based on the prevailing frame of the German Dornier 228 defence transport aircraft which is already used by the defence forces. Last year in February, on the sidelines of the DefExpo in Lucknow, HAL had received the modification document for the HAL Do-228 upgraded civil aircraft from DGCA.

The two civil Do-228 which are expected to be deployed under the UDAN initiative have a maximum takeoff weight of 6200 kgs. This needs to be further modified to bring the weight down to around 5700 kgs for it to be flown under the Commercial Pilot License category.

This upgraded civil aircraft is equipped with a digital cockpit. This is expected to provide precise information; ensure more accurate readings, and ergonomic data displays with feedback loops and capability for self-check to alert pilots in emergencies.

This aircraft has already fulfilled the requirement of a Light Transport Aircraft (LTA) for the Indian armed forces.

So far, the Kanpur Division of HAL has produced 125 Dornier 228 under license since 1983. And in 2017 on December 26, the DGCA cleared Do-228 to be used for civilian flights.

Earlier this year in May, the first ground run of the first prototype of the aircraft was carried out and as part of 75th Independence Day anniversary celebrations, the ground trials and low speed taxi trials of the aircraft were done for type certification by the DGCA.

These tests are important as, according to the HAL Chairman R Madhavan, the focus is on getting the international certification. “After the DGCA approval, the international certification has been taken up parallely. And soon, we will be going for a high speed trial and certify the aircraft.”

On the successful completion of these tests, the aircraft will become usable.

What is the current status of Saras programme?

In 2017, the government asked NAL to revive the 14-seater Saras Mk2 aircraft under the UDAN scheme.

Why has the programme been revived?

The analysis of the crash revealed that the accident happened not because of technical failure but procedural lapses.

The twin turboprop aircraft which was started to feed the growing civil aviation market in India was first initiated in the 1990s. The first prototype of the Saras was flown on May 29, 2004 and was almost 993 kg over weight on a proposed 4125 kg. And at that time it had flown 125 flights. There was an engine change which had helped in minimizing the weight in the second prototype, and after further modifications the third prototype was closer to 4125 kg mark before it crashed.

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