‘It will be an integrated strategy to develop aviation in the country’

The B.K. Chaturvedi Committee, tasked with suggesting measures for restructuring Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., has made out a fresh case for an umbrella aeronautics body on the lines of the Space Commission or the Atomic Energy Commission.

A national aeronautics commission, straddling both the civil and military sectors, will propel the country into the global map and help to create a respectable indigenous aviation industry, the six-member panel is learnt to have proposed, in its report to the Defence Ministry.

The panel was asked, earlier this year, to come out recommendations for restructuring HAL, which licence-produces fighter planes, trainers, transport aircraft and helicopters to the armed forces. In recent times, it has drawn flak from the Services for late deliveries.

The former IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal (retired) Fali H. Major, said an empowered national aeronautics commission was needed to visualise the future of the country’s aeronautics, lay a road map, set goals and improve indigenous capabilities.

The Space Commission had put the country in an exclusive space-faring club of 5-6 countries. Robust activity under the Atomic Energy Commission had also made the world take notice of the country, he noted.

“If you have national aeronautics commission that is answerable to the Prime Minister, it will take many crucial decisions, [such as funding],” he said. The former HAL chairman, Ashok Baweja, said, “If you need to have an integrated strategy to develop aviation in the country, from designing, making aircraft and engines, and to marketing them, then an aeronautics commission would be the right agency.” Russia and Brazil, both successful aircraft exporters, 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 in a huge market. In 2011, the country was the eighth-biggest military spender.

Mr. Baweja said: “Everybody is doing its own thing. Right now we have less vision and very little strategy in this area and no collective thought.” A national commission would help save much effort and resources.

Aircraft making, for example, spread from HAL, under the Ministry of Defence, to the Council of Industrial Research’s National Aerospace Labs (NAL) under the Department of Science and Technology. NAL is designing and developing a 70/90-seater passenger aircraft.

The Aeronautical Development Agency under the Defence Research and Development Organisation is also chasing the Light Combat Aircraft and the Medium Combat Aircraft projects.

  • The panel was tasked with suggesting improvements for HAL

  • ‘Right now, aviation industry has little strategy, collective thought’