As air connectivity between Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities in the country has become a central focus, the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) is banking on these places to be its market. The government-run aerospace laboratory is looking to mass-produce Saras Mk-II, a 19-seater multi-role light transport aircraft, by 2025. Low-cost airlines are expected to be major attractions. The reason? The lower factor, which means a reduced number of seats that is supposed to make running the airlines a profitable business. While commercial aircrafts that are catering to air commuters are larger in size, with several seats left vacant and causing huge operational costs, NAL director Dr Jitendra J Jadhav told TNIE that the 19-seater, which private players are yet to bring to the country, will work out to be more profitable as the seats will be completely occupied. “At present, NAL is expecting a demand of 145 aircrafts. While the Indian Air Force has committed to 15 and are expected to demand 45 more,” he said. The airlines are expected to connect smaller cities in a major way. “While there are 400 airstrips across the country, just 100 of them are operational,” said Dr Jadhav, pinning hopes on the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the government’s Udan Yojana to put some life into the other 300. Dr Jadhav also said the present model, that will be produced by IIT Kanpur, will be cost and fuel-efficient. “The aircraft will have a digital control system for the engine, lesser aerodynamic drag, lightweight materials, and a state of the art avionics system, which will also reduce the maintenance and operational costs,” he said. Dr Jadhav confident of Saras’ efficiency While NAL’s Saras project was started in the 90’s and has faced several hurdles along the way, Dr Jitendra J Jadhav was confident of its efficiency and time-bound production.
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