Y. Mallikarjun

HYDERABAD: In a bid to provide air connectivity to smaller cities, that too, at 25 per cent lower operating cost, conceptual work has begun at the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) to develop an ambitious, next generation 70-90 seat civilian Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) in a public-private partnership mode.

The NAL pavilion housing a model of the passenger cabin of the proposed aircraft, which is at the drawing board stage, has become a major attraction and drawing lot of visitors at the ongoing ‘India-Aviation-2010' being held at the Begumpet airport here.

Kota Harinarayana, former programme director of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and currently a Raja Ramanna Fellow at NAL, told The Hindu here on Friday that the aim was to develop a new generation civilian plane which could land in all-weather conditions in airfields which do not have adequate ground infrastructure facilities like Instrument Landing System (ILS). Besides, it was also proposed to equip the plane with green technology as part of the efforts to contain environmental damage.

He said that although the country had around 450 airfields, only 80-90 of them were operational. The time has come to develop air connectivity to Tier-II and III cities to cater to business, tourism and pilgrimage requirements.

At least there were 300 airfields, each of them having runway length of more than 5,000 feet and they could be networked to provide all-India connectivity.

A host of modern technologies, including fly-by-wire flight control system, open distributed modular avionics, satellite-based augmentation system to aid in air navigation, advanced displays, composite airframe, enhanced synthetic vision system and nano coating would be used. It was also being planned to ensure that the plane has low drag so that it would consume less fuel.

An airfield with 5,000-feet runway would be adequate to operate. Also it could be flown at high altitudes. The plane would have passenger-friendly cabin and pilot-friendly cockpit.

Dr. Harinarayana said the development phase of the project would begin next year and the first flight test was expected to be conducted by the end of 2014 or in 2015. The aircraft would be ready for service by 2016.

A number of scientific organisations, laboratories and reputed academic institutions are collaborating with NAL, one of the premier CSIR bodies, in executing the project.