18th February, 2003


V.K. Subramanian*

SARAS, India’s first civilian aircraft, a 14-seater, rolled out of the hangar on 4th February, 2003 as part of the Bangalore airshow without taking to wings. It will be sometime, probably by the year-end, before the SARAS can soar into the sky on its maiden test flight. At the spectacular air show, SARAS however, did create a flutter revealing her majestic design and looks, reserving kudos for a later date.

Built indigenously by the CSIR’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Banagalore, in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) and several private enterprises, SARAS is likely to usher in the dawn of civilian aircraft industry in India in a big way. India first ventured into civilian aircraft production and came out with the two-seater HANSA in 2000 which is best suited for training, sport and hobby flying. Since then HANSA has been in great demand from several countries including Australia. But SARAS is one step ahead. It has already started generating enquiries from abroad.

The 150 crore-rupee SARAS project was delayed due to sanctions by the West in the wake of Pokhran-2 tests. This has in a way helped India in going for major indigenisation as well as in giving a fillip to civilian aircraft production. The light multi-role transport aircraft is mainly intended for use in far-flung, remote and hilly areas of the country. It is ideal for executive transport, as a light package carrier, remote sensing, aeril research service, coast guard, border patrol, air ambulance and other community services.

The twin turbo-prop multi-purpose SARAS is highly suited for short hops in the commuter role as well as in a long-range high speed cruise in the executive transport role. It can cruise at a maximum speed of 520 km/hr with a ferry range of 1942 kms and an endurance time of 6 hours.

The plane has a span of 14.70 metres, measures 15.02 mtrs and has a height of 5.20 mtrs. It has a maximum take-off weight of 6,100 kg with a fuel capacity of 1326 kg and a maximum payload of 1232 kg. The aircraft requires a take-off distance of 605 mtrs and a landing distance of 671 mtrs. SARAS is powered by two Pratt and Whitney engines. Its commuter version will have 14 economy-class seats, the executive version with luxurious accommodation with 9 deluxe seats, an ambulance version and a combi version with 7 economy class seats and room for mail and light packages.

SARAS has the state-of-the-art Arinc-429 compatible integrated digital avionics system with semi-glass cockpit. Its other special features are pressurized cabin with low cabin noise operable from semi-prepared runways and air fields in hot climatic zones and high altitude areas. It is an all-weather, day-and-night aircraft capable of fully duplicated flight deck and certified for single pilot operation. Low operating cost, ease of maintenance, ruggedness and reliability have been achieved by using appropriate technology in building the aircraft and aligning the systems. Superior aerodynamics, efficient high lift system, a reliable power plant, selective use of composite materials, integrated digital avionics and a structure designed for 30,000 hours of flying make the aircraft one of the best in its class.

A judicious combination of aluminum alloy and composite material make the plane sturdy with fail-safe parts and components used in all primary structures and major attachments. The damage tolerance concept has been incorporated in its design. The avionic systems of SARAS have the get-you-home type backup. Its flight control systems include a primary flying control, manually actuated and a three axis integrated auto-pilot system. It can fly at an altitude of 10.5 kms.

After the roll out and ground testings the DG Civil Aviation will have to be approached for clearance of the test flight. Everything going well, its first test flight would take place in the third quarter of the year. The cost and economics will be worked out in due course. The NAL which built this plane was also associated in many ways in the production of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), currently undergoing successful test flights and already catching world-wide attention. (PIB Features)

*Information Officer, PIB, New Delhi.


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