Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Isro to join project for passenger plane

India’s space agency will be made a partner in the country’s Rs2,500 crore passenger plane project so it can share its technology expertise, infrastructure and programme management skills and help avoid the mistakes and delays seen in previous projects.

The so-called regional transport aircraft, or RTA-70, being designed to carry 70-90 passengers on short-haul routes, is India’s ambitious attempt to build a civilian plane and bridge the gap in aeronautical expertise with countries such as China and Brazil.

The Indian Space Research Organisation, or Isro, “will be part of a consortium,” said G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the research council of National Aerospace Laboratories, or NAL, a public-funded agency focused on civil aerospace technologies. “NAL will lead the project.”

Nair, a former head of Isro, said the plane project would be run by an independent commercial body, with public and private partners, including an overseas aerospace firm. He did not name the private firms.

The plane project is yet to get government sanction but is listed in the science and technology plan in the 11th Plan that ends in 2012.

Once approved, the plane project will take around six years to build and be certified for operations, said C.G. Krishnadas Nair, president of the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industries, or Siati, a body that promotes home-grown enterprises in the aerospace and defence sectors.

So far, India’s attempts to build civilian planes has had little success. NAL has built two civilian planes so far: Hansa, a two-seater trainer, is being flown in some flying clubs but is not a commercial success yet. Saras, a 14-seater plane project in the works for nearly two decades, has been suspended till an inquiry is completed into the crash of a prototype in March that killed two pilots.

In the late 1990s, military plane maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, or HAL, and Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR dropped a plan to make turboprop planes jointly in Kanpur, citing limited market opportunity.

But economic growth since then and the boom in India’s civil aviation sector has presented a fresh opportunity to build planes locally. NAL officials say the sweet spot would be planes that can carry 70-90 passengers over the short haul (up to 1,000km, say, Bangalore to Mumbai) and does not compete with planes of large firms such as Boeing Co. or Airbus SAS.

Currently, only NAL and HAL build planes in India. In December, Mahindra group become the first private Indian conglomerate to acquire the capability to build aircraft when it bought two Australian aerospace firms for up to Rs175 crore over five years.

For the RTA-70 project, HAL is the manufacturing partner and firms such as Infosys Technologies Ltd and the local unit of US technology firm Honeywell International Inc. are building some technology components, Satish Chandra, convenor for the RTA programme at NAL, said in a lecture on 30 September.

The plane is expected to consume around 30% less fuel than existing 70-100-seater passenger aircraft, and have half their maintenance costs through the use of special sensors and coatings. RTA-70 will be able to land and take off on small runways and use satellite navigation, Chandra said.

“We should make use of all resources (in aerospace) within the country. The aim is to make the project a success,” said Nair of Siati.

In addition to building rockets and launching satellites, Isro is building a capsule to carry astronauts into space and later to the moon; some of the facilities and technologies it uses for projects such as these could complement NAL’s plane programme. NAL, too, builds and tests technology for Isro’s programmes.

While Isro’s record of building rockets and launching satellites has improved over the years, it has seen its share of delays. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, or GSLV rocket, with an indigenous cryogenic engine, was set for launch by January but has been delayed by at least a year.

Analysts caution that Isro’s bag is full with projects, including planetary and manned space missions, and even if it is used as a partner, the lead agency should take on the onus of completing the project.

“Why just Isro, you can use any resource available in the country, but the least you should do is to have one person or agency that should be accountable (for the project),” said retired Air Marshal T.J. Master, chairman of Master Aerospace Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd, an aerospace advisory. “It should be made a commercial success and that should be the drive.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation: non-metro airports...

Development works by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has been completed at various non-metro airports and in many the work is scheduled to be completed by 2009-10. This information was given by the Minister of Civil Aviation, Shri Praful Patel in Rajya Sabha. The details of development works completed by AAI at various non-metro airports are as follows: Vizag (Andhra pradesh)- construction of new integrated terminal building; Guwahati (Assam)- extension of runway; Mangalore (Karnataka)- construction of new integrated terminal Building; Agati(Lakshadweep)- construction of new integrated terminal building; Raipur (Madhya Pradesh)- construction of new apron; Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh)- construction of new apron at; Aurangabad (Maharashtra) - construction of new integrated terminal building; Nagpur (Maharashtra)- construction of new international arrival hall and expansion of existing terminal building; Amritsar (Punjab)- extension of runway, expansion of apron and terminal building, construction of new terminal building; Jaipur (Rajasthan)- construction of new international terminal complex; Udaipur (Rajasthan)- construction of new terminal building complex and new apron; Madurai (Tamil Nadu)- extension of new apron; Trichy (Tamil Nadu)- construction of new integrated terminal building; Agartala (Tripura)- expansion of apron, strengthening of existing runway and construction of technical block; Agra (Uttar Pradesh)- renovation of terminal building; Dehradun (Uttarakhand)- construction of new terminal building, apron and strengthening and extension of runway. Development works scheduled to be completed in Financial Year 2009-10 at various non-metro airports are as under: Portblair (Andaman & Nicobar Island)- extenion and strengthening of apron; (Raipur (Chattisgarh)- construction of new terminal building; Ahmedabad (Gujarat)- construction of new international terminal building; Ranchi (Jharkhand)- construction of new integrated terminal building; Trivandrum (Kerala)- construction of new international terminal buiding; Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh)- construction of new integrated terminal building; Indore (Madhya Pradesh)- construction of new integrated terminal building; Pune (Maharashtra)- extension and modification of terminal building; Imphal (Manipur)- extension of apron; Dimapur (Nagaland) - extension of apron and construction of link Taxiway. Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu)- expansion and modification of existing terminal building, consruction of part parallel taxi way and extension of apron; Madurai (Tamil Nadu)- construction of new integrated terminal building; Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh)- construction of new international terminal building and new apron, expansion of existing apron; Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)- construction of new integrated terminal building including aerobridge and extension of apron; Chandigarh (Union Territory) - construction of new terminal building; Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh)- construction of terminal building. of terminal building. (a): Airports Authority of India (AAI) operates and Airports Authority of India (AAI) operates and maintains 87 operational and 29 non-operational airports including 23 civil enclaves at defence airfields and private airports for air traffic operations. In addition to above, Government of India have given 'in-principle' approval for setting up of new Greenfield airports at Navi Mumbai, Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, Mopa in Goa, Bijapur, Simoga, Hassan and Gulbarga in Karnataka, Pakyong in Sikkim, Durgapur in West Bengal and Datia/Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. There is no such estimation made. However, Airports Authority of India (AAI) has plan to incur expenditure of Rs.12434 crores for modernisation of airports and air traffic services across the country during XIth Five Year Plan period (2007-2012).Two Greenfield Airports each at Bangalore and Hyderabad with an investment of Rs. 2400 Crores and Rs. 2920 crores have been made operational in 2008 under PPP. Besides,development of IGI Airport, New Delhi and CSI Airport, Mumbai with estimated cost of Rs. 8975 crores and Rs. 9802 crores respectively has been undertaken under PPP.

Airlines see blue skies in FY11 on cost cuts, improved traffic

India’s airlines are expected to post aggregate losses of around $2 billion (Rs9,260 crore) in 2009-10, largely on account of excess capacity and high fuel prices, but most of them are looking forward to a better, even profitable, 2010-11 on the back of their own cost-cutting measures and an increase in passenger traffic. The growth has already started coming in. If the current situation prevails, the next financial year will be good for airlines. Most importantly, the gap between demand and supply will disappear in the year. Demand could outstrip supply by 2014. That marks a significant turnaround for a sector plagued by overcapacity in 2008-09 and part of 2009-10. The aggregate loss of India’s airlines rose 44% to Rs8,557.37 crore in 2008-09 and the airlines expect to post a loss of a similar magnitude this year. Meanwhile, passenger traffic in the country, the fourth highest in the world after that in the US, China, and Japan, fell in 2008-09 on the back of high tariffs; it also fell in the first part of 2009-10. (Negative outlook: The aggregate loss of India’s airlines rose 44% to Rs8,557.37 crore in 2008-09 and the airlines expect to post a loss of a similar magnitude this year.) However, most airlines have started posting better results in recent months. Jet Airways (India) Ltd, the country’s largest airline, showed a 33% increase in its domestic passenger traffic in November, compared with the same period last year. The airline’s international passenger traffic has also registered a growth of 19% in November. Even in what is typically the lean season for Indian airlines, Jet Airways managed to clock an operating profit of Rs44.24 crore for the quarter ended 30 September. However, its net loss in the quarter widened to Rs406.69 crore from Rs384.53 crore a year earlier, largely on account of a five-day pilots’ strike and lower airfares. The Indian aviation market is growing realistically at 4-5% currently, compared to the levels of 2007-08, which was the boom period. The issue of overcapacity has been addressed. That’s an opinion that is seconded by analysts. The airline sector is exhibiting strong recovery, with an increase in passenger traffic and bottoming of yields. This, along with stable oil prices, is expected to lead to (the) sector turning profitable by next year. “I have always been very optimistic about the Indian market. All signs are that traffic is improving but we also need to see an improvement in yields. The yield improvement will come as capacity is constrained and I am sure we will see another wave of orders (for planes) in 2011-12,” said Kiran Rao, executive vice-president, marketing and contracts, for aircraft manufacturer Airbus SAS. Not everyone agrees with that. Airline CEOs (chief executive officers) are always optimistic and they will expect profit every year. As long as the growth is artificial and fares do not cover the cost of operations, profitability will be a question. An industry analyst, who did not want to be identified, pointed out a potential problem arising from Indian carriers cancelling or deferring orders for aircraft. “Most of the carriers have deferred their aircraft acquisition plans. If the revival is true and if they fly back to black, they will miss the wave of next boom.” Over the past month, shares of Jet Airways have risen 19.68% and closed at Rs560.45 each on Wednesday on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Shares of Kingfisher Airlines Ltd rose 15.06% to close at Rs60.35 each, and those of SpiceJet Ltd zoomed 31.22% to close at Rs55.90 each in the same period. The exchange’s benchmark Sensex index has risen by 3.8% in the same period and ended Wednesday at 17125.22 points.

Monday, December 7, 2009

DGCA deregisters 3 Paramount aircraft...

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has deregistered three of the five aircraft in the fleet of Chennai-based Paramount Airways Pvt. Ltd. This is the second time since last year that the regulator has deregistered aircraft at the behest of lessors owing to defaults in lease payment. GE Commercial Aviation Services (Gecas) last year confiscated three aircraft from Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, the country’s second largest private airline, for this reason. In October Gecas had sought to de-register Paramount’s aircraft and DGCA was considering the move. Four-year-old Paramount, with a market share of around 2%, largely flies within southern India, using its leased fleet of Embraer 70-75 seater aircraft. “Air traffic control (ATC) has already been informed of the registration numbers of the aircraft today,” said one of two top government officials. The second government official said the airline has told DGCA that the aircraft should not be deregistered as the carrier has won a case over lease payments in London against Gecas. “We will not go on hearsay,” the official said. “When the original copy of any such order comes, then we can register them again with the relevant charges.” A Paramount Airways official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that there was an order to deregister the aircraft but reiterated that the airline has won a case over the issue in London. Paramount will present its case to DGCA, this official said, adding that he expects the planes to keep flying. Paramount’s aircraft carrying the registration numbers VT-PAD, VT-PAE and VT-PAF have been deregistered, according to the officials. The three aircraft were part of a lease agreement with Gecas dated 29 July 2005. The airline is currently operating around 20 daily flights after two of its aircraft were grounded in the past three months due to engineering issues, said another airline official who asked not be named as he is not authorized to speak with the media. Gecas’s spokesperson could not be reached for comments by email or telephone. DGCA’s spokesperson was not available to comment.


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