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Force Magazine

Learning to Fly

The National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) programme is an ambitious and high risk project

By Atul Chandra

Learning to Fly

Just over a year ago in July 2013, the High Level Committee on Manufacturing (HLCM) headed by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave the go-ahead for the manufacture of a civil aircraft in India. The decision was taken with the view that this was “a strategic sector where there was a need to have a presence in the long term, particularly in view of the rapid growth of the aviation sector.” As a result “the HLCM took a major strategic decision for the development of a civilian aircraft, of a 70-100 seater range to begin with, in India.”

The development and production for the 70-100 seat passenger aircraft was to be housed in a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and the initial funding of Rs 20 crore to be borne by the JV partners, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). The board of HAL has already given its approval for the SPV. Now named the National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) programme, it envisages development and production partnerships with Indian private sector firms as well as companies overseas.

Tech Mahindra has already deployed its engineers in the feasibility study for the National Civil Aircraft (NCA). The NCAD programme will also seek to leverage the offsets available in the defence sector to help build critical domestic capabilities in high precision manufacturing and avionics. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) will look to supplying Flight Control Systems including the Flight Control Computer, Mission Computer, Communication systems, Display Systems for the NCA.

The NCA will be a single aisle, twin engine 70-100 seat commercial aircraft that will have to face entrenched competition without the luxury of strong home market unlike China. Various feasibility studies have been undertaken to arrive at a typical regional transport aircraft configuration, though the final configuration along with engine type (turbofan or turboprop) is yet to be decided. At present, it is estimated that the NCA could see its maiden flight in seven years by 2021. This can only be termed as optimistic and more likely to take around a decade, putting the first flight around 2024.

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