A civil aircraft focus is a key suggestion given by panel

Strong winds of change blowing towards Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) are likely to alter its complexion from being an exclusively military plane maker, reliable sources say.

This is apart from the impending disinvestment of the government stake in it, which was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Thursday.

The defence public enterprise is being inexorably and inevitably drawn into the civil aviation sector to make civil transport planes, besides military fighter planes, just as global majors Boeing and Europe’s EADS [France-based European consortium that makes Airbus] do, according to the sources.

Some more exciting prospects are also in the pipeline for the 33,000-employee-strong company, if the recommendations of the B.K. Chaturvedi committee on restructuring HAL get approved.

Acquiring overseas companies to strengthen or plug technology gaps within; pay scale reforms and a possible pay parity with maharatnas such as the National Thermal Power Corporation; empowerment of executive management; and independent business units headed by their own chief executives are a sample of things to come.

A civil aircraft focus for HAL is a key suggestion that the Chaturvedi committee has made in its report to the government, sources familiar with its affairs told The Hindu .

Incidentally, key members of the committee on the National Civil Aircraft Development Programme — currently steered by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s National Aerospace Labs — are set to meet in New Delhi on Friday.

The committee submitted the report to the Ministry of Defence about a month ago and its ingredients have not been made public yet.

“The committee’s thought is that nobody [ no major aircraft company] in the world works exclusively in civil or military aviation.

“Just as Boeing and EADS leverage their civil expertise in the military realm, HAL, too, should put its infrastructure and 60 years of experience into civil aircraft manufacturing,” the sources said.

Restructuring of the HAL board; joint ventures; strengthening research and development; partnerships with private and public sector companies; and involving the industry in relatively low-end works are some of its suggestions.

Currently, foreign direct investment in the defence sector is restricted to 26 per cent and the government and industry have debated this issue too.

  • The defence public enterprise may start manufacturing civil transport planes

  • The panel has suggested acquisition of overseas companies too