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India’s plan to build a passenger aircraft is finally taking shape. It is likely to finalise the specifications in three months, according to an official at the ministry of civil aviation.

“The specifications will be decided in about three months. There are also things to be firmed up, like whether we should use a turbo jet or a turbo-prop engine. The effort is to build a passenger aircraft with 70 to 100-passenger capacity,” according to G Ashok Kumar, joint secretary, MoCA.

The plan to make the passenger aircraft was approved by a high-level committee on manufacturing last year.

“It might take seven to eight years for the prototype to be ready,” Kumar said, adding that public sector enterprises HAL and NAL would be involved in the project. A special purpose vehicle will be formed for the project, he said.

This is about the same time when India is expected to double its fleet size in 2020. According to the Ficci-KPMG India Aviation report, India had a fleet of 400 aircraft and it would add as many aircraft in the six years in view of the growing passenger and cargo traffic.

The government project holds significance as it will prop up the local manufacturing sector and lead to employment generation, directly and indirectly, and aid in growth of ancillaries.

When contacted, Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG, said, “China does it. Brazil does it. There is no reason why India cannot build its own regional aircraft. Between HAL, NAL and Isro, we have enough knowledge to do so. Care should be taken to leverage the capabilities of the Indian private sector as a joint mission. We should steer clear of developing standard technologies from scratch and leverage the existing ones to create the first prototypes. The sophistication and indigenous content can be added later.”

Meanwhile, Kumar said almost all airports managed by AAI have introduced GPRS-based electronic cash transactions relieving the crew of the responsibility of carrying huge cash for paying airport charges.

Earlier, it was mandatory for the crew to pay in cash. This facility was first announced in September last year at Juhu. The new system could handle multi-currency. Also, the non-scheduled operators could enjoy credit of 45 days on payment through credit cards. This is working on a real-time basis and is helping AAI improve its cash flows.

This facility will come handy for chartered flights, which are increasing in number to tourist locations like Goa. Chartered flights will increase as India offers visa on arrival to passengers from about 150 countries.
(By: Financial Chronicle)

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