NAL optimistic on general aviation in India

NAL LogoIndia's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) is confident that less restrictive rules and regulations around certification will help to catalyze the country's nascent general aviation sector.

That was the opinion of NAL director Shyam Chetty, who spoke with Flight global at the recent India Aviation show in Hyderabad.

The aerospace research and development firm has signed an agreement with Mahindra Aerospace to produce and certificate its indigenously designed CNM-5 five-seater piston aircraft at a factory in the Indian city of Kolar.

So far, only one prototype of the NAL-designed aircraft has been produced. The aircraft was built by Mahindra unit Gipps Aero at its factory near Melbourne, Australia, and had its maiden flight in 2011. It has since been used in flight tests.

This aircraft will be transported to Kolar for the certification campaign. In addition, Mahindra will build two more prototypes at Kolar, which is to the northeast of Bengaluru.

“Before it was not attractive to build, test, and certificate the aircraft in India,” says Chetty. “The current government says 'Make in India' is a very crucial thing, and aviation and aeronautics will also play a big role in this as as technology driver. We are hopeful about the [CNM-5] as well as Mahindra’s eight and ten seater programs.”

Mahindra’s two other programs are the Airvan 8 and Airvan 10. Like the Airvan 8, the CNM-5 uses a Lycoming IO-540 piston engine. The larger Airvan 10 is powered by a Rolls-Royce 250 turboprop.


Apart from the prevailing emphasis on “Make In India,” which was a theme of this year’s India Aviation show, another positive element for the CNM-5’s prospects is the government’s intention to develop 160 airstrips to handle general aviation aircraft. Scattered about the country, most of the strips date from World War II.

“They are modelled as strips with minimum infrastructure so that the smaller aircraft can operate,” Shetty says. “All were built in WWII, but they're still there. They have to be fenced, the grass has to be cut, and we have to see what sort of minimum security is necessary.”

Chetty also touched on the company’s Hansa ab initio trainer aircraft. Produced by NAL and Taneja Aerospace and Aviation, the Rotax 914-F3 powered type is in service with Indian flying schools.

Unfortunately sustaining the small number of aircraft built has proven extremely problematic. As such, NAL plans a redesign of the 1990s type. This will see it get an improved cockpit, better avionics, and a designed optimized for serviceability.

NAL wanted to do a market survey about India’s general aviation market, but came to the conclusion that it would need to, as Chetty puts it, “create the market.”

“There are few four-to-five seater aircraft in operation,” he says. “But there is a lot of potential for air taxi services and in the air ambulance role.”












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