New Delhi (Sputnik) — An upgraded version of India's first domestically produced civilian airplane Saras took its maiden flight in the southern city of Bengaluru on Wednesday.
This was the first successful flight of the upgraded version of the country's ambitious indigenous project which was initially conceived in the 1990s as a joint project between India and Russia. However, India's National Aeronautics Ltd (NAL) decided to go solo with the 14-seater civil aircraft program when the Myasischev Design Bureau, the Russian state agency for civilian planes, backed out due to the financial crisis. It took nearly two decades for scientists at NAL to fly the first prototype in May 2004.
I congratulate CSIR-National Aerospace Lab scientists on the maiden flight of 14 seater SARAS PT1N. Designed & developed by CSIR-NAL, it flew for about 30 minutes this morning at a maximum height of 8500 ft at a speed of 145 knots. All the system parameters are found normal. pic.twitter.com/6GzefETZkn— Dr. Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) January 24, 2018
After the second flight test of the prototype was unsuccessful in 2009, the Indian Air Force did not show much interest in further tests prompting the government to stop funding because of which the project was grounded between 2013 and 2016.
Sputnik had earlier reported NAL was holding consultations with the Indian Air Force to revive the project.
However, with the upgraded version now available, the Indian Air Force expects to purchase 15 aircraft units to train flight crews for its transport aircraft, such as Boeing C-17, and IL-76. NAL also plans to soon roll out Saras MK-2 which will be a 19-seater aircraft for both military as well as civilian purpose. Saras MK2 will have next-gen avionics, a glass cockpit, autopilot and other modern features apart from reduced weight in comparison to the present Saras. The program is expected to kick off in 2019.