Hindustan-228: HAL's 'Made In India' Civil Aircraft Makes Progress

  • HAL’s ‘made in India’ civil aircraft achieved a milestone last week after it carried out ground run and low-speed taxi trials.
  • Here's a brief look at the development of the aircraft.
  • Karan KambleFriday, August 27, 2021 6:31 am IST
    HAL's Hindustan-228 or the civil variant of Do-228.
    HAL's Hindustan-228 or the civil variant of Do-228.

    Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) announced a key development for its homegrown civil aircraft on 16 August.

    The aerospace company said it successfully conducted ground-run and low-speed taxi trials of the made-in-India Hindustan-228 (VT-KNR) aircraft.

    The test was carried out at HAL’s Kanpur facility on India’s 75th Independence Day. It will count towards the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ‘Type Certification’, which paves the way for the aircraft to additionally secure an international certification.

    According to a statement issued by HAL, the Hindustan-228 complies with the “latest FAR 23 certification requirements”, which has to do with the airworthiness of small aircraft.

    The completion of the trial is a “major milestone for the first fixed wing ‘Made in India’ civil aircraft in India”, the chief executive officer of HAL’s Accessories Complex, Sajal Prakash, said, adding that it’s “a step forward towards strengthening regional air connectivity”.

    ‘Made in India’ Hindustan-228

    The Hindustan-228 is the civil variant of the multipurpose light transport aircraft Do-228 that is manufactured by HAL under licence from M/s Dornier GmbH of Germany.

    The German firm designed and developed the Dornier Do-228 in the late 1970s. A licence agreement was signed in 1983 between Dornier and HAL for the production of the aircraft. The contract was for the licensed manufacture of up to 150 aircraft.

    HAL has the licence to produce the Do-228 locally. Over the years, the defence and aerospace company has manufactured 150 of these aircraft with various upgrades, supplying the Indian Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Electronics and Radar Development Establishment, as well as exporting to the Indian Ocean nations of Seychelles and Mauritius.

    These aircraft are being used for maritime surveillance, patrol, and search-and-rescue operations.

    Maritime surveillance and patrol variants of the twin-engine, turboprop Do-228 have been modified by HAL to include equipment as per the Indian Navy’s requirement, such as surveillance radar, FLIR (forward looking infrared), ESM (electronic support measures), satellite communications, data links, speech secrecy equipment, TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system), and EGPWS (enhanced ground proximity warning system).

    HAL announced plans for a civil variant in late 2016. The structural assembly unit was inaugurated a year later at HAL’s Kanpur facility by then minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha.

    The Transport Aircraft Division at Kanpur took up the manufacturing of the civil variant of Do-228 to support the Union government’s regional connectivity scheme, UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik).

    The UDAN scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy that was released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in June 2016. The goal has been to affordably connect small towns and remote regions of India by air.

    The Kanpur Division of HAL took up the production work because of its expertise in the manufacture, maintenance, modification, and upgrade of light transport and trainer aircraft for both domestic and international markets. It has also been engaged in developing indigenous equipment and systems with a view on cutting costs and achieving self-reliance.

    HAL received the “Certificate of Airworthiness” from DGCA for the Do-228 civil variant aircraft on 21 December 2017, which opened it up for use by airlines within India under the regional connectivity scheme. A demand of 200 aircraft was estimated at the time.

    HAL had two Do-228 civil aircraft that were ready for deployment by airline operators. Early last year, it received the modification document of the civil aircraft from DGCA during the DefExpo-2020.

    The modification involved reducing the aircraft weight (maximum take-off weight) from 6,200 kg to 5,700 kg in order to meet the requirement of a transport aircraft flyable under the commercial pilot licence category.

    In addition, the aircraft was upgraded to feature a digital cockpit for precise readings, ergonomic data displays with feedback loops and the capability for self-check to alert pilots in case of emergencies. It features state-of-the-art avionics.

    “The Glass cockpit of Dornier -228 is an important business portfolio for the future and is expected to get us more revenues in the years to come,” HAL tweeted in March last year.

    Another aspect of the upgrade is the incorporation of civil certified turboprop minus 10 engine compared to the earlier minus 5 engine, and the integration of the five-blade propeller.

    According to HAL, the Do-228 has the “unique advantage” of short take-off and landing capability, high fuel and payload capacity, low maintenance cost, fuel efficiency, and high cruising speed in its class.

    The 19-seater aircraft with two-person operation in the cockpit can be used for a variety of purposes through modification, such as passenger and VIP transport, cargo transport, air ambulance, aerial surveillance and photography, cloud seeding, and para jumping.

    HAL Do-228 in different roles (HAL)
    HAL Do-228 in different roles (HAL)

    In February this year, HAL signed an agreement with Air India subsidiary Alliance Air for the deployment of the Do-228 to the advanced landing grounds of Arunachal Pradesh.

    Alliance Air is set to be the first airline in India to fly HAL’s homegrown aircraft.

    India is the seventh-largest civil aviation market in the world currently with growth prospects indicating it will move upwards to surpass its neighbours on the list in the coming years.

    Under the Udan scheme, a hundred more airports are planned to be developed by 2024. The air fleet number is expected to rise from the present 600 to 1,200 during this period.

    In light of these projections, India will benefit from having a homegrown civil aircraft.

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