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HAL looking for global partner to design trainer aircraft

Ravi Sharma

BANGALORE: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has decided to rope in an international partner for the design and development of the much needed ab initio turbo trainer for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Navy.

The public sector aerospace company has sent out a request for information (RFI) to a number of companies that have designed and manufactured basic turbo trainers, including Embraer (for their Tucano), Pilatus (PC-21), Raytheon (T-6 Texan), Finmeccanica (M-311), Grob Aircraft Company (G-120TP) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KT-1).

The RFI is for 200 aircraft, with HAL being the sole worldwide manufacturer. The trainer, which will be named Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40), will replace the HAL-designed Hindustan Piston Trainer-32 (HPT-32) Deepak, an aircraft which has been used by the IAF and, in smaller numbers, the Navy for their primary pilot training since 1984. But the reliability of the HPT-32 has always been in question.

The basic piston-driven aircraft has faced a number of technical issues, including a sudden switching off of the engine in mid air. Since its induction, the HPT-32 has had over 70 incidents.

HAL’s efforts to make modifications have been thwarted by a design mismatch between the HAL-designed airframe and the trainer’s Lycoming AEO piston engine. After a series of accidents a few years ago, a worried IAF almost declared the aircraft “too dangerous to fly solo.”

The IAF is hopeful that HAL will come out with a replacement for the HPT-32 by 2013-14 and has indicated its qualitative requirements: a trainer with good spin characteristics, a reliable turboprop engine, an ejection seat, a glass cockpit, a retractable undercarriage, modern navigational equipment and global positioning system. The IAF would also like an interchanging of the trainer’s cockpit layout with the instructor seated on the left and the trainee pilot on the right.

Justifying the decision to rope in a partner, a senior HAL official explained that it could take four to five years if they were to develop a trainer on their own. “Roping in an established partner who has already designed a trainer of this sort will not only mean compressing timelines, but also offering the IAF a top-of-the-line product incorporating most of what the IAF wants. The RFI is the first cut in the process of finding a partner. We hope to finalise the trainer’s specs and our partner by March 2010.”

He said a collaborative effort would also allow HAL to use the global marketing reach and technical reputation of their partner to sell a HAL-designed product in the world market.

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