A six-member committee on restructuring Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd seems to have made out a fresh case for an umbrella aeronautics body on the lines of the Space Commission and the Atomic Energy Commission.
A National Aeronautics Commission straddling civil and military sectors will propel the country into the global map and help to create a respectable indigenous aviation industry, the B.K.Chaturvedi Committee is learnt to have strongly put forward in its (as yet unpublicised) report to the Ministry of Defence.
The committee was tasked earlier this year to suggest improvements in HAL, which licence-produces fighter planes, trainers, transport aircraft and helicopters to the Armed Forces. In recent times the Bangalore-based company has drawn flak from the Services for late deliveries.
Former IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal (retd) Fali H.Major, said an empowered NAC was needed now to visualise the future of Indian aeronautics, lay a roadmap, set goals and improve indigenous capabilities. The Space Commission had put the country in an exclusive space-faring club of 5-6 countries; healthy activities under the Atomic Energy Commission had also made the world take notice of the country.
"If you have an NAC that is answerable to the Prime Minister, it will take many crucial decisions" such as funding, he said. Air Marshal Major, who headed the Air Force during 2007-09, was also a member of the Chaturvedi committee.
According to Ashok Baweja, who was HAL's Chairman between 2004 and 2009, "If you need to have an integrated strategy to develop aviation in the country, from designing, making aircraft and engines to marketing them, then an aeronautics commission would be the right agency,” he said. Successful aircraft exporters Russia and Brazil had cohesive approaches.
Aviation circles worry that the country buys a large number of commercial and military aircraft but there is still no Indian brand for such a huge market. In 2011 the country was the eighth biggest military spender.
Mr. Baweja said, “Every body is doing its own thing. Right now we have less vision and very little strategy in this area and no collective thought.” A commission would save multiple efforts and resources.
Aircraft making, for example, spread from HAL under the Ministry of Defence to the CSIR's National Aerospace Labs under the Department of Science and Technology. NAL is designing and developing a 70/90-seater passenger aircraft under a National Civil Aircraft Development Programme.
The Aeronautical Development Agency under the Defence Research & Development Organisation is also chasing the Light Combat Aircraft and the Medium Combat Aircraft projects.