Small industries have been supplying components ranging from doors to composite air frames for Airbus planes and IT companies writing software code for avionics used in Boeing commercial aircraft. But, there is no push to attempt to make an indigenous twin-engine short to medium range aircraft in the country. And that too at a time when Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Mahindra Group have achieved the expertise to make passenger planes.
Two of the biggest makers of commercial jets source crucial components hinting that the country has good firms that can make quality components.
While there is no push from the government to make an indigenous commercial airliner, the giants like Boeing and Airbus too are not looking at making their planes in the country.
Airbus sources $550million dollar worth of components and has a design facility in Bengaluru. Boeing too sources several components. A senior Airbus official said the country may not have component makers for producing a complete aircraft.
Pierre de Bausset, president and MD of Airbus said an indigenous plane can be made but it depends on the investment also. “We buy a lot in India. Most of it goes into commercial planes. Eight percent of the value of a plane is what you buy. This puts India in the global supply chain.”
Indian companies have started to handle assembly line of planes, he added. “The suppliers are able to compete with global firms. There is a need to induce them to reach that high quality and safety level. This hand-holding may be costly in the beginning. But in the long term this is good,” he added. The component makers are good at airframe, machining the alloys which are using in the body of the plane, said Ashish Saraf, vice president, industry development, Airbus.
Nevertheless it is much easier to manufacture planes under transfer of technology from foreign companies like Mahindra is planning to do under a JV with a Japanese company for amphibian plane.
S P Shukla, group president, Aerospace and Defence, Mahindra Group and chairman of Mahindra Defence Systems is optimistic. He said, “Why not, we can make commercial airliner in India. Our commercial aircraft is being flown in 31countries.”
Pratyush Kumar, president of Boeing India, said Boeing is not considering making any of its commercial airliners in India.
An official of River Engineering which supplies mechanical parts for fighter planes and helicopters feels shortage of metals or alloys may be a reason why commercial airliners are not made indigenously. However, vendors say making things moving in India is cumbersome process. There are multiple approvals and procedures. HAL is the only approved agency for aircraft design.
T Suvarna Raju, chairman and MD, HAL, during a MoU signing cermony acknowledged that private sector could complete the process of design and manufacture faster than a public sector units.