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Saras aircraft’s maiden flight tomorrow

Bangalore, May 26
The first prototype of the indigenous civilian aircraft Saras, designed and developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), will make its maiden flight on Friday from the HAL airport here.

“The first prototype is scheduled to be flown by Indian Air Force pilots on Friday,” Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy told mediapersons here today.

The twin turbo-prop 14-seater light transport aircraft will be flown by test pilots of the IAF’s Aircraft and System Test Establishment.

The prototype powered by two American Pratt and Whitney engines now weighs 5,118 kg, about 900 kg heavier than its desired empty weight of 4,125 kg and is equipped with five seats, including one for the pilot and an observer.

“Every prototype will be heavier and there is a lot of improvement from the first prototype to the development of the aircraft,” said the Air Chief Marshal.

The Rs-150 crore project on Saras, named after the Indian crane, began in 1991 under the stewardship of Prof Roddam Narasimha but it hit air pockets due to the denial of critical components following US sanctions imposed after the Pokhran tests in 1998.

The Bangalore-based NAL, a CSIR lab, revived the project in 2000 after the government assured additional capital infusion of Rs 200 crore into the project.

“The Saras design is imaginative and the first eight to nine aircraft will be bought by the IAF,” he said.

“I have approached the government and requested them that the IAF would prefer buying an indigenous aircraft (Saras), instead of a foreign-built aircraft,” he said.

Two prototypes of Saras have to be flown for a total of 500 hours before it gets the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation certification, which is expected to be completed by 2007.

Saras is designed for executive transport, as a light package carrier, remote sensing, coastguard and air ambulance.

After addressing the training commanders’ conference at the IAF Training Command headquarters here, the Air chief said the IAF would retire next year nearly 70 MiG 21 aircraft that were produced from 1966 to 1970 and had completed their technical life.

“The MiG 21s on which the boys are being trained are on type 77, the oldest variant of MiG 21s which are used to train the pilots,” he said, adding the training was done at Tejpur and Bagdogara.

“These were produced between 1966 and 1970 and would have finished their technical life probably by next year,” he said.

“So there are no more aeroplanes, we are desperate. We need the trainer (AJT) more importantly than a combat aircraft,” he said, defending the country’s decision to acquire the AJTs from BAe systems.

Lauding the work of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in its upgradation programme of the Jaguar fighters and MiG 27 aircraft, he said, the team of HAL, DRDO and IAF had built an indigenous mission computer for MiG 27 resulting in savings of crores of rupees in foreign exchange. — PTI


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