HYDERABAD: Wings India 2018 was off to a flying start on Thursday and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited stole the show with its 19-seater aircraft HAL-DO-228-201. The state-owned aerospace and defence company brought the aircraft to showcase it to potential buyers, that’s commercial airline operators, who are planning to venture into the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) also called UDAN. Sources claimed the aircraft garnered a lot of interest, especially for chartered flight operations.
The HAL-DO-228-201 is a 19-seater twin-turboprop Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) utility aircraft. “For small distances, a jet engine is not economical but a twin turboprop surely is,” said Abhinav Kumar, deputy marketing manager, transport aircraft division, HAL. “This is a military aircraft model that has been adapted for civil use. We have upgraded the engine, propeller, interior decoration, avionics with the scope for future upgrade,” he added.
Under the UDAN scheme, of the total 502 routes that were up for bidding, 128 were booked by commercial airline operators in 2017. The 2018 bidding saw 325 routes getting booked. However, civil aviation ministry data suggests that only 40 per cent of the routes that were booked in the first bidding under the RCS are now operational. Players like Air Deccan and Air Odisha, who bagged 84 of the 128 routes in 2017, are yet to start operations.
HAL also showcased its Dhruv Mk III, ZD-4165 helicopter which has also been adapted for civilian use. Several chartered flight companies also showcased their private luxury liners on the first day of the event. “The Phenom 300, for instance, can travel a distance of 3,500 kilometres with a single filling of fuel. The notion that jet flights are not suited for short travel is wrong, charter flights and private jets are very common in the west,” said Samuel Bennett, a test pilot for the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer.
“The private chartered sector is doing good in India and has scope for expansion. We have also observed the market for commercial flights has been slowing down since 2014,” he added. “The commercial flight operators that are entering into the regional connectivity already have fleets of small flights and are expanding aggressively. A charter flight is not designed for commercial flying even though we have experience operating smaller flights and routes,” said Sudhir S Rajeshirke, vice president-projects of Arrow Aircraft Sales and Charters Pvt limited.