|NAL Saras taking off|
|Role||Light transport aircraft|
|Manufacturer||National Aerospace Laboratories|
Mk1 - 29 May 2004
Mk2 (~2025, planned)
|Status||In production (Mk1)|
Indian Air Force intended
Indian Army intended
|Number built||2 prototypes|
In January 2016, it was reported that the project has been cancelled. But in February 2017, the project has been revived. In February 2019, India's finance ministry approved ₹6,000 crore (US$840 million) for the production of the airliner.
In the mid-1980s, the Research Council recommended that the NAL should study the civil aviation requirements of India and recommended ways of establishing a viable civil aviation industry. It further recommended that the NAL should carry out a formal techno-economical feasibility study of a multi role light transport aircraft (LTA – renamed SARAS in October 1993). The feasibility study (November 1989) showed that there was a significant demand for a 9–14 seat multi-role LTA in the country and estimated a market potential of about 250–350 aircraft in the next 10 years. NAL submitted the feasibility study report to the Research Council in November 1990 and started its search for an industrial partner.
The project began in 1991 as a collaboration with Russia (Myasishchev had a similar project called the Duet), but financial trouble led the Russians to drop out early in the project. The project almost came to a halt when it was hit by US-imposed sanctions in 1998, after India's nuclear tests in Pokhran. The Saras project was sanctioned on 24 September 1999 with initial schedule of its maiden flight by March 2001. The first Saras (PT1) completed its maiden flight at the HAL airport in Bangalore on 29 May 2004.
The original design target parameters included a maximum take-off weight of 6,100 kg and a maximum payload of 1,232 kg, a high cruise speed of over 600 km/h, an endurance of six hours, a maximum flight altitude of 12 km (cruise altitude 10.5 km), short take-off and landing distances of about 600 m, a maximum rate of climb of 12 m/s, a low cabin noise of 78 dB, a range of 600 km with 19 passengers, 1,200 km with 14 passengers and 2,000 km with eight passengers, a high specific range of 2.5 km/kg and a low cost of operation of ₹ 5/km.
While the designed empty weight of the aircraft is around 4,125 kg, the first prototype weighed in around 5,118 kg. This issue is sought to be addressed by including composite wings and tail by the third prototype. The airframe of Saras-PT2 was built with lighter composites to reduce its overall weight by about 400 kg from its first prototype, which was overweight by about 900 kg. The aircraft is powered by two Canadian Pratt & Whitney turbo-prop engines mounted in the pusher configuration.
The first prototype will be upgraded to meet the latest design criteria including higher-power 1,200 hp (895 kW) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A engines and improvements to the flight control and flight operations systems. The upgraded PT1 is due to make its first flight by the end of 2011 leading to certification and first deliveries in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
As of 20 January 2016 National Aeronautics Limited (NAL) had stopped all work on Saras as the funding for the project stopped by end of 2013. Engineers who were working on NAL Saras got redeployed to other ongoing similar projects with higher strategic importance.
The second prototype of the aircraft was overweight by 500 kg against the specified design weight of 4125 kg. The third prototype has yet to take flight. NAL was hoping to revive funding for the project.
In October 2016, it was reported that government is mulling a revival plan. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), that had almost shelved the plan, is on a rethink mode with additional funding in the pipeline.
As of 14 February 2017, the reconfigured first prototype had been handed over to the IAF's Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), which had conducted a few low-speed ground runs. The National Aerospace Lab's (NAL) director Jitendra J. Jadhav is said to be looking at putting the Saras back into the air by June–July, though officers on the programme seem to think August–September was a more likely timeframe.
An upgraded Saras undertook high speed taxi trial on 2 January, 2018 at Bangalore.
The revised prototype first flew on 24 January 2018 from HAL Airport for 40 minutes, reaching 8,500 ft (2,600 m) and 145 kn (269 km/h) before evaluating system performance over 20 flights to freeze the production design. In a press conference during Aero India 2019, it was revealed that ₹6,000 crores were released for the production of the aircraft as NAL had got the certification for its improved version recently. Weight was no longer an issue as team was successful in cutting down weight by 0.9 tonnes. The new version will also be fitted with better avionics.
In collaboration with Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, NAL is also engaged development of Saras Mk2, a 19 seater version of the airliner. Government has given clearance and fund requirement to NAL for development of same. NAL has completed basic testing for pre-production standard and aims for certification in 4 years to produce first aircraft in following one-and-a-half-year.
The IAF has signed up with National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore for the purchase of 15 Saras aircraft and may need 45 more. “NAL signed a memorandum of understanding with IAF to sell 15 Saras aircraft. The Kanpur unit of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd will manufacture these planes,” The aircraft would be used for coastal surveillance as well as training young cadets on transport flying.
₹6,000 crores were initially released in early 2019 for the production of aircraft. Initial order of 15 aircraft by IAF may go up to 120-140 in upcoming years.
Incidents and accidents
On 6 March 2009, 2 Indian Air Force test pilots, Wing Commander Praveen Kotekoppa and Wing Commander Dipesh Shah along with a Flight Test Engineer Squadron Leader Ilayaraja, were killed when the second prototype Saras aircraft crashed and caught fire in an open field near Bidadi, about 30 km from Bangalore. A court of inquiry found that wrong engine relight drills given to the pilots contributed to the crash, concluding that an "Incorrect relight procedure devised by the designer and adopted by the crew at insufficient height leading to rapid loss of altitude and abnormal behaviour of aircraft resulted into accident."
- Crew: 3 (Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer)
- Capacity: 14 passengers / 1,232 kg (2,716 lb)
- Length: 15.02 m (49 ft 3 in)
- Wingspan: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
- Height: 5.2 m (17 ft 1 in)
- Wing area: 25.7 m2 (277 sq ft)
- Airfoil: NASA GA(W)-2 mod.
- Empty weight: 4,116 kg (9,074 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 7,100 kg (15,653 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A turboprop engines, 895 kW (1,200 hp) each
- Propellers: 5-bladed MT-Propeller, 2.65 m (8 ft 8 in) diameter constant speed pusher propellers
- Maximum speed: 550 km/h (340 mph, 300 kn) at FL250
- Cruise speed: 520 km/h (320 mph, 280 kn)
- Stall speed: 145 km/h (90 mph, 78 kn) flaps down, power off at sea level
- Never exceed speed: 688 km/h (428 mph, 371 kn)
- Range: 1,275 km (792 mi, 688 nmi) with 45 min reserves and 8 passengers
- 590 km (367 mi; 319 nmi) with 14 passengers
- Ferry range: 1,627 km (1,011 mi, 879 nmi) with 45 min reserves
- Service ceiling: 9,100 m (29,900 ft) maximum certified altitude
- Rate of climb: 10.17 m/s (2,002 ft/min)
Wing loading: 237.4 kg/m2 (48.6 lb/sq ft)
- Takeoff distance: 670 m (2,198 ft)
- Landing distance: 900 m (2,953 ft)
Integrated digital avionics system using ARINC 429 data bus interfaces
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Beechcraft 1900
- Beechcraft Model 99
- Beechcraft Super King Air
- Dornier Do 228
- Embraer EMB 110
- Embraer/FMA CBA 123 Vector
- Evektor EV-55 Outback
- Piaggio P.180 Avanti
- "NAL plans design, development of 70-seater aircraft". The Economic Times. 16 September 2019. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
- Patil, Ramu (20 January 2016). "After 16 Years and Rs 300 Crore, Civil Aircraft Dream Crashlands". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
- "Ministry of Defence gives nod for proposal to produce Saras civil aircraft developed by NAL". UNI. 21 February 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
- Urs, Anil (16 February 2017). "NAL to revive SARAS, two other civil passenger aircraft". The Hindu Business Line.
- NAL news report, with pictures, of the First Saras Test Flight Archived 21 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Rao, Radhakrishna (25 February 2011). "Saras back from the brink again as NAL targets 2013 certification". Flight International. Flight Global. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- Waldron, Greg (17 March 2016). "NAL hopeful of funding to revive Saras". Flight Global.
- "IAF plans for dedicated satellite on track; Sukhoi to fire BrahMos in 3 months". Mathrubhumi. 4 October 2016.
- Hemanth C S (2 January 2018). "NAL's Saras PT1N teaser hints take-off time is near". Bangalore Mirror.
- Addison Schonland (25 January 2018). "A "first flight" in India". AirInsight.
- Ray, Kalyan (14 September 2011). "Home-spun Saras to train Air Force's trainee pilots". Deccan Herald. DHNS.
- "Three IAF pilots die in trainer plane crash". IBNLive. IANS. 6 March 2009. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015.
- Sharma, Ravi (21 July 2009). "Wrong relight drills caused Saras crash". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "3 pilots dead in aircraft crash near Bangalore". The Times of India. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
- "Final Investigation Report on accident to NAL SARAS PT2" (PDF). Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Government of India. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
- "Saras" (PDF). NAL. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2017.
- Jackson, Paul; Peacock, Lindsay; Bushell, Susan; Willis, David; Winchester, Jim, eds. (2016). "India". Jane's All the World's Aircraft: Development & Production 2016–2017. Couldson. pp. 298–299. ISBN 978-0710631770.
- Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.