Time to think beyond Boeing and Airbus?

Consume these two bits of information and tell me if you spot any irony.

  1. We spent $300 million for the first GSLV launch, and plan to spend further $100 million on “Mission Chandraayan” to put some Indian dust on the Moon. India launches 2-3 satellites every year. And Chandraayan will sure not do more than 1 mission every few years.
  2. Boeing recently said that India would need 856 airplanes over next 20 years. I am sure Airbus is only waiting to forecast more such numbers.

And what are our HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) and NAL doing? Happy making doors for Airbus A-320 aircrafts? HAL has been working on an Advanced Light combat aircraft for last 15 (not sure) years, and it has just finished its Advanced Light Helicopter project. These, I am sure were advanced when they were conceived back in 1990s (or even earlier).

Light, light and small, HAL and NAL, why are you only thinking light projects? It is time to think heavy and commercial! 500-700 commercial aircrafts over next 10-15 years – that is a lot of money and a lot of jobs!

Why not think big? Why is government not encouraging entrepreneurial activity in this sector? Is building airplanes a tougher task than hoisting tricolor on the Moon?

The justification for GSLV project is that we will compete with the developed world – on cost – in the ‘satellite launch’ market. Doesn’t that logic easily justify investments (public or private) towards a ‘real’ commercial aircraft company?

Here is one other way to look at the situation. European nations joined hands to form an aircraft-building consortium, and Airbus was born. Now, when India and China need a thousand aircrafts for their domestic needs, we are both content handing the profits off to Europe and America.

Looks like the upcoming Asian giants are content running back office and factory operations for the world. And I am sure the developed world is more than interested in keeping things that way.

[Disclaimer: numbers quoted in here are estimates pulled together from various websites]

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18 Responses

  1. Public Sectors Industries should be removed from the clutches of Politicians and Sleepy Bureaucrats.

    Let them compete with everyone else, or perish. This alone force its management to – crave for progress and profits.

    http://apunkadesh.blogspot.com

  2. I feel there is more future in light than heavy. Heavy is like a bus and light is like a car or two wheeler. With the condition of the road infrastructure it is time that light aircraft be made available for commuting. We need VTOL aircraft and we want it cheap. HAL needs private competition to drive down the prices. How about some private company manufacture a Rs. 1 Lakh Light aircraft and make it available for the Indian public. Once we have it who needs 4 lane and 6 lane roads anymore.

  3. NAL has been developing a small aircraft called SARAS (maybe comparable to ATR). It is not fully ready yet. More information at http://www.nal.res.in/ and http://www.nal.res.in/pages/ipaug04.htm#saras.

    And, some more information at the bottom of http://www.nal.res.in/pages/ipmay06.htm. I don’t understand – why can’t they use some other airports like Jakkur or other military or disused airports? As usual, there is a HUGE delay in operationalising/commercialising any indigenous technology.

  4. Scarlet – that was funny. Imagine debris falling on you from the sky eveywhere. And imagine city skyline covered with these small planes!

    I am thinking star wars like disciplined “city flying” – will Indian city fliers ever be able to do that !? Oh god. I am going crazy with imagination here.

    N – HAL development cycles seem to be v long. delays everywhere.

  5. hi buddy,
    i thing government only take action at the last moment or when it sees there is an urgency of doing that…otherwise it keeps on delaying things weather its of high value..

  6. i think the problem lies with HAL, ADA,ADE, NAL themselves. I work closely with these organizations selling products and its quite ridiculous (and advantageous to us!) the way these guys go about their projects and plans. Most of them are half baked with very little value addition themselves and are largely dependent on outsourced work; Some of these organization have world class staff who are poached by the ‘commercial’ corporates after they have been trained and retrained. Which is why they get away with unbelievable overruns – white elephants. There is no great future for these guys. Any guesses when the saras or ALH will be productionised ? No wonder, the Indian Air Force doesnt depend on HAL.

  7. Namma Nadu, what you say does falll in line with their track record.

    since they did manage to build ALH and Saras and Tejas (however late or expensive), do you think they will be able to build commercial planes too with a lot of pushing prodding and monitoring? I would guess so. Then, our aviation boom – which has only just begun – is a huge business oppoprtunity getting exported to Boeing and Airbus.

    If you say building large planes is bit tough, can we at least not build mid size jets like that Brazilian company Embraer does ?

  8. If people are building elevated highways and are ready to pay 25 bucks per day toll. I feel this is a definite business case for an all weather, computer piloted, VTOL for commute. We are in 2006 and the technology is there, it needs to be applied.

  9. I am amazed just at the sheer range of topics you write about :-) I really enjoy reading your posts.

  10. oh, thank you so much Abhipraya.

    Scarlet, so how much does a VTOL cost to build and operate? Are there working commercial prototypes around?. Are you thinking private flying machines, or public ones. I like the thought of BMTC operating VTOLs :)

  11. Let me see …

    The below link talks about different kinds of craft available
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_VTOL_aircraft

    The issue is that these are all made in Abroad – if they were made in India and if innovative manufacturing techniques were applied it would reduce costs. I would say a craft could cost the consumer in the ballpark of Rs 1 Lakh.

  12. Sorry – I am refering to Private owned vehicles here.

    These kind of vehicles will also facilitate easy access to BIAL too (recent discussion). Just get in the vehicle, punch BIAL, it will delivery you with your luggage to BIAL, punch back-home – the vehicle returns home and parks on your private rooftop verti-port and you get to board your international flight on legacy jumbo jet.

  13. Hi Silkboard:
    Yes, we should think BIG. That’s the only way to go. I have some of my thoughts at http://windia.blogspot.com

    One day I want to make planes :)

  14. U really r a jets lover

  15. […] of costs took me back to this old post here, and made me think how much a similar mid-size plane could cost if an Indian or Chinese […]

  16. […] by silkboard on May 25th, 2007 I wrote this 6 months ago – “Time to think beyond Boeing and Airbus” – wondering why we dont make commercial aircrafts ourselves . Then, I posted this a few days […]

  17. funny, author writes so much about aviation in India and he doesn’t know as to which organisation is leading LCA Project. Its ADA developing the Aircraft while various other DRDO organisations & HAL are partners.

    and second thing is, Developing aircraft like what Boeing or Airbus does is not running back office operations.

    —————-
    Why not think big? Why is government not encouraging entrepreneurial activity in this sector? Is building airplanes a tougher task than hoisting tricolor on the Moon?
    —————-
    Nobody is hoisting tricolor on moon for atleast another. Chandrayaan project is UNMANNED for god sake, don’t start dreaming about a manned moon project.

    Building airplanes is tougher task, And do you know why?
    You build Airplanes when the customer is interested, when airlines wanna buy them?
    So you see Customer here is a completely different one and he will definitely look into Beoing & Airbus before considering any local made aircraft.

    And coming to ur Moon dreams, who is the customer? who is the developer here?
    for both answer is ISRO and that makes a real big difference.

  18. Easy Ajay. Author doesn’t claim any expertise on the subject. He is only a layman feeding on a regular diet of newspapers. But he can try add to your exuberance.

    ADA is sarkaari body, rather a consortium program-managing the LCA project. HAL is a key member/partner/contractor of ADA, and is in fact responsible for its integration and production. Notice the language – HAL is ‘working on it’.

    To be specific, first few lines of the post say Chandraayan aims to put “Indian dust on Moon”, not Indian people. That “hosting Tricolor” bit written later in the post is a reference to the then-hot topic of Chandraayan-II, which some said aims (or rather aimed) to put an Indian on moon.

    Now about the main point on whether there are enough customers for a swadeshi commercial plane or not. Why argue, when we know that NAL itself has recognized the opportunity and submitted plans to make 70 seater planes

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