SOURCE: ANTON NORONHA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
India intends to develop a Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) with a seating capacity for 70-90 passengers that could be manufactured in the country in a cost-effective manner. The aircraft will be used to connect cities over 500km apart and CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR-NAL) has been asked to carry out feasibility studies for the project.
While on the other hand, American Civilian passenger plane manufacture ” Boeing” in its long-term forecast for commercial airplanes in India, projects need for 2,300 new jets worth $320 billion over the next 20 years. as per segment wise bifurcation provided by Boeing, Regional jets with the seating capacity of less 90 makes up only 10, while Narrow-body aircraft with seating capacity of 90 and more are expected to have orders of 1940 aircraft making up the bulk of the orders in Indian Civilian passenger airline market.
According to Indian Civilian Market experts, the sweet spot in the Indian Airline market always will be 100-120 seater aircraft which are usually used to for long routes in a range of over 500km. The government of India plans to revive some 300 of 450 defunct airstrips and as per India’s Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and Bangalore-based National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) they could be a long-term requirement for nearly 200 aircraft, But market experts predict that market largely factors in Military orders and Airlines will not jump to procure an indigenous aircraft just for sake of promoting local aircraft unless there is viable saving in operation and procurement cost of the aircraft for short and long term.
According to NAL, it is aiming for 25% lower acquisition cost, 25 % lower O&M and 15-20 % lower fuel consumption for Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) when compared to imported similar class of regional aircraft, but the question still remains do Indian Public and Private sector airline companies intend to procure so many Regional Aircraft in the first place ?, Boeing’s assessment of the Indian market doesn’t seem to suggest so, nor any Industrial experts have backed numbers thrown out by the initial feasibility studies done on the market requirement for such jets in India by NAL or HAL.
Current pitch for Civilian Dornier and Saras 14 seater aircraft have not found much favor with Indian airline companies to operate on the short-range air travel of less than 300km even after backing from the Government. RTA which is likely to power by a Turboprop engine or a Turbofan engine needs to factor in that an all-economy class aircraft should be able to carry MTOW of over 100 passengers to attract Indian airline companies backed by lower acquisition and maintenance cost for its operators along with reliable engines and avionics from reputed companies to reduce training of ground crews in their day to day operations.
If the Government of India has learned its lessons from the Saras Program then it should make sure that Local Public sector companies collaborate with International aircraft manufactures to make the project achieve its key milestones in time and also establish confidence in the airline companies who will be its operators in long-term on the aircraft developed locally in India.