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Private contractor developing Saras: Report
DGCA report into prototype’s crash slams National Aerospace Laboratory
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, April 22
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) report into the crash of the Saras prototype aircraft during a March 2009 test flight has found fault with the project’s management and work practices of its developers, the National Aerospace Laboratory here. Apart from design changes, the report has asked the laboratory not to employ private contractors for designing the country’s first civil aeroplane.

The report has accused the premier laboratory of subcontracting the design and development of Saras to a private agency, Aircraft Design and Engineering Service (ADES) Ltd, Bangalore. “The work schedule of the project indicates that almost complete work on design and development of Saras project is being done by the contractor, including flight testing analysis,” it said.

The laboratory made sure that it would retain the sole right of patenting the design and inserted a clause in its contract with ADES. However, it did not pay much attention to confidentiality and ignored adequate safeguards in case of leakage of technical information by the subcontractor.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said that since the 14-seat Saras was a national project, utmost care should be taken in its implementation. “The concept of employing a private contractor in the design and development of the Saras Project requires to be discontinued immediately. Only support for parts and appliances should be obtained from them,” the report said, adding that the contracting system followed by the laboratory needed to be reviewed.

Probable cause of the crash, according to DGCA, could be the incorrect re-light of the second engine by cutting off the live first engine at an insufficient height leading to rapid loss of altitude - a procedure devised by the designer and adopted by the crew.

Lack of crew coordination and cockpit procedures, handling of controls, non-aborting of flight by the crew in coordination with the flight test director after failure of first relight attempt and devising engine relight procedures by NAL without consulting the propeller manufacturer were the contributing factors for the tragic incident, DGCA said.

The report also added that Saras was the first civil turboprop plane being flown by pilots from the Indian Air Force’s Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment. “Assessment of crew for human factor is important. Human factor of the flight crew were not assessed by NAL for the civilian cockpit and flight operation environment (of Saras) as the test pilots are basically from the Air force environment,” the report said. It also pulled up the IAF and said the “management committee” jointly set up by IAF and NAL for monitoring the test flight did not play the role that was originally envisaged for it.

Accident inspector MP Raju submitted his report to DGCA authorities last December. It was put on the public domain today. 





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