India’s state-funded Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has received approval from the country's aviation watchdog to start production of the Do-228 (Upgraded) civil aircraft, which is set to compete with global manufacturers eyeing a big slice of the booming aviation market.
HAL said on Thursday that Indian civil aviation regulator the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has granted approval for the production of modified 19 seaters Do-228, weighing 5,700 kilograms, during the ongoing DefExpo-2020.
The Bengaluru-based state-owned company has had to reduce the weight of the plane, which was originally 6,200 kilograms, for operating under India's regional connectivity scheme UDAN. Launched in 2017 to improve the connectivity of underserved and unserved destinations in India, it's a flagship scheme Narendra Modi’s government.
According to the HAL, modified aircraft with a digital cockpit now meet the prospective operator’s requirement of a transport aircraft flyable under the Commercial Pilot License category. HAL believes that Glass Cockpit architecture enabled aircraft will be most sought after new-age aviation technology.
The firm also said that the integration of a five-blade propeller to the upgraded aircraft will see a significant reduction in noise levels, faster engine start, less lubrication and better damping characteristics.
It is believed that the Do-228 would compete with France-based turboprop aircraft manufacturer ATR in the Indian market as HAL claims that the Do-228 would cost approximately $10 million per unit as compared to the ATR that comes in at $24 million per unit.
Low-cost Indian carriers that usually lease aircraft instead of buying them to ensure low operational expenses, might have no qualms investing in cheaper aircraft like the Do-228.
India’s aviation sector has been under pressure due to costly fuel and a delay in the delivery of aircraft from Airbus.
The Indian government, while presenting the annual budget on 1 February, announced that 100 more airports would be developed by 2024 to support the regional connectivity scheme.
On 1 February, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman remarked in her Budget presentation that India’s air traffic has grown rapidly as compared to global average and the air fleet number is expected to rise from 600 currently to 1,200 by 2024.
With regard to infrastructure capacity and passenger availability, low-cost carriers, mainly new entrants, may choose an aircraft having lower operational expenses with a smaller passenger capacity.