Another Training aircraft crash highlights regulatory failure

India has witnessed an increasing number of training aircraft accidents over the past few years. Flight schools are the foundation of pilot training. The airlines and other operators depend on these institutions to churn out high caliber professional to assure safety and efficiency in air transport. Unfortunately, these very institutions are facing the wrath of a crumbling regulatory setup. The safety systems are dependent on proactive and reactive measures to assure safety. The regulator has demonstrated inadequate oversight of activities and poor standards/quality. The investigation from which the industry learns to prevent future accidents is unable to perform due to poor quality of accident investigation reports.  Commercials has clearly been given precedence over safety. A number of investigations are motivated to shield the operator and/or poor infrastructure. An example is the comments in the attached clip. The system is a closed setup and does not encourage collaborative decisi

Political will & Institutions needed to become Atmanirbhar in Civil Aircraft Production

A Vimana is a word with several meanings ranging from temple or palace to mythological flying machines described in Sanskrit texts like Yajurveda, Mahabharata, Samarangana Sutradhara, Rigveda, Ramayana and even older ones. As well as being able to fly within Earth’s atmosphere, Vimanas were also said to be able to travel into space and travel under water.

India seems to have failed to capitalise on the rich heritage while countries like Brazil has become successful aircraft manufacturer and has now graduated to electric aircraft manufacturing too. What will it take India to manufacture a commercial aircraft at a time when the Indian Space Industry is winning accolades globally?

A determined political will and establishment of institutions in the civilian aerospace sector is the first step to rediscover the lost technology of making "flying machines" called the "Vaimanika Shastra".

Brazilians might respond with the assertion that the first airplane was invented by their compatriot, Santos Dumont, rather than the Wright brothers. Brazil claims that as early as 1890 Leopoldo Correia da Silva floated stock at 100 milreis per share in the Brazilian Air Transport Company for the construction of aircraft in Rio de Janeiro. Although the venture failed to get off the ground due to inadequate capitalization, Brazilians have never relinquished their dream of a domestic aviation industry.

In 1921, the government had made the Central Aeronautics Centre which also had a wind tunnel for testing in the continent. The year 1969 found Brazil enjoying an economic boom. The gross national product had increased an estimated 8.4 per cent and industrial production had jumped thirteen per cent the previous year. Exhilarated by the progress of automobile & shipping industries, the nation's leaders decided the time was ripe for a major effort to create a Brazilian aviation industry. The Embraer company was formed in 1969 and by March 1971, it had raised a capital of $25.5 million through equity. A number of incentives and tax concessions given to promote the aviation sector.

The government knew that it would be economically unviable to build an aircraft from a scratch, as a result they acquired the technology by purchasing rights of an Italian aircraft. They started with assembly of the aircraft and later manufactured the complete aircraft in Brazil. Brazil is now a leading regional jet aircraft manufacturer globally. They also manufacture military transport aircraft and have a tie up with India for the AWACS aircraft.

India did begin with the Saras project for manufacture of an Indian Commercial Aircraft in the mid 1980 and the prototype flew the first flight in 2004. The aircraft project by the National Aerospace Laboratories suffered a setback when the aircraft crashed in 2009. The project suffered another blow when their funds dried up in 2013 and the engineers got deployed on other projects.

The dream of an Indian commercial aircraft was put on hold and the reason was primarily the lack of political will and a dedicated institution for the development of the commercial aircraft. 

The Embraer commercial entered into a $4.2 Billion joint venture with Boeing but early 2020, Boeing decided to call off the project. This was a golden opportunity for India to form an alliance and jump start the Indian commercial dream. However, on 2nd Dec, the CEO of Embraer announced that Commercial aviation is no longer for sale, as the company presented its market forecast for the next ten years.

The civil aviation sector in India has been surviving on foreign support in terms of training of pilots from the ab-initio stage till the advanced airline pilot training. Almost 60% of all training is carried out at locations outside India thereby becoming a huge drain on the exchequer. In the next 10 years, the civil aviation sector will spend over $1.5 billion on various training activities but due to the poor training infrastructure in India, most of the training will take place outside India. This not only affects the cost and foreign exchange but also the lack of oversight on the training standards.

The Indian Government has drawn up a roadmap for 2040 with the aim of making India as a manufacturing base. However the foundation still remains unsteady since there is a lack of institutions and private sector participation in manufacturing of aircraft and training equipment. 


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