Fatal Crash Won’t Halt NAL’s Saras Project
India’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) still plans to go ahead with the project to develop the country’s first indigenous airplane despite the March 6 crash of its number-two Saras prototype. “The Saras project will continue; we will not shelve it,” SK Brahmachari, director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), told the press yesterday. The second prototype of the turboprop twin was on its 49th test sortie when it crashed, killing three test pilots. According to officials, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered airplane had flown for 70 minutes and successfully performed an in-flight engine restart test before it climbed to a higher altitude, lost contact with the central tower and crashed near Bangalore. The cause of the crash has yet to be determined. Meanwhile, work is already under way on a third prototype that will conform to the “production standard aircraft.” India’s Union Cabinet of ministers has already approved additional funds for building the third prototype, as well as for developing a 70-seat variant. The latter design was originally scheduled to be launched by year-end, but this will likely be delayed due to the recent crash. However, NAL still expects to certify the 14-seat Saras by next year.